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Theories of Social Work

Madurai Institute of Social Work

Social Workers
Celebrating Community –Honouring Diversity


Social Work is a practical job. It is about protecting people and changing their lives, not
about giving theoretical explanations of why they got into difficulties …
Social work is about social change at the individual as well as at community level.
Change is complex, diversified and risk prone. To understand it, social worker need
knowledge. imagination, comprehension & creativity….in short, a radical shift in
understanding “Knowledge as process” as opposed to “Knowledge as product” is
But our understanding of social work (especially with the faculty and students of social
work colleges in non metropolitan cities of India and students with low level mastery of
English language) is frozen with the simple definition of social work is the art and
science of helping the people to help themselves.
Compilation and interpretation of social work definition accessible to the students (PD
Mishra 1994) conveys a meaning that social work is a “helping” “assisting” „enabling”
activity, which in turn suggests social work is seen as a benign and uncontentious
activity, willingly accepted. This understanding fails to reflect the major transformations
social work discipline has undergone as well as its global outlook. There is nothing
wrong in simplifying a concept, but if it ignores the complexities associated with the
concept, that will end our further seeking.
Whatever may be a definition of social work, it is normally based on certain perspectives
and understanding of that perspective / theory will help us to appreciate that definition.
It is this clarity that normally make one to commit in his/ her professional


To answer these
questions one need to
What is the need know why people are
suffering. What is our
of social work or responsibilities towards
Why Social work? fellow human beings?
How we gain knowledge
about the human
problems? What makes
us perceive the human
Definition of problems in a particular
social work How social work way? Why we subscribe
generally convey is carried out? to certain methods of
solving problems? ….
Social workers need to
answer these questions
To whom social before addressing others
work is going to problems. Theories &
serve? or perspectives of social
characteristics of work may provide some
answers to these
its cliens


Why Social Work?

Life means to face the demands of day to day life and realize the self. By life tasks we mean the
responses people make as they face the demands made upon them in various life situations, such
is growing up in a family, entering school or work, raising a family, earning their daily bread,
working in the industry, problems relating to job or earning, facing illness, accidents and death.
People are dependent on social systems to realize their aspirations and to cope with their life tasks.
In order to realize their life tasks people have to interact with three kinds of resource systems in
the social environment
1. Informal or natural resource system consists of family, friends, neighbors, co workers, etc
2. Formal resource system consists of membership in organizations, trade union organizations or
other socio cultural organizations
3. Social resource system such as schools, hospitals, housing societies, police, banks etc
Why people are unable to obtain the resources, services or opportunities in the resource systems,
they need to cope with their life tasks and realize their aspirations?
1. A needed resource or service may be scarce or may not exist or may not provide appropriate
help to people who need it.
2. People may not know the existence of a resource system or may be hesitant to turn it for help
for several reasons like distance, corruption, delay or poor quality etc
3. The polices and procedures of the resource system may inhibit / prevent it access (eg. eligibility
criteria, gender, etc)
4. Several resource system may be working at cross purposes
The purpose of social work is to enable the people to use the social resources to meet their life


What do we mean by helping people to help themselves?

1. Increased understanding of oneself or a situation.
2. Being able to make a decision
3. Being able to confirm a decision.
4. Being able to get a support for a decision.
5. Being able to change a situation
6. Adjusting to a situation that is not going to change
7. Being able to examine options and choosing one
8. Being able to discharge feelings

Compare self help with empowerment

Empowerment includes the following, or similar, capabilities:-
The ability to make decisions about personal/collective circumstances
The ability to access information and resources for decision-making
Ability to consider a range of options from which to choose (not just yes/no, either/or.)
Ability to exercise assertiveness in collective decision making
Having positive-thinking about the ability to make change
Ability to learn and access skills for improving personal/collective circumstance.
Ability to inform others’ perceptions though exchange, education and engagement.
Involving in the growth process and changes that is never ending and self-initiated
Increasing one's positive self-image and overcoming stigma
Increasing one's ability in discreet thinking to sort out right and wrong



What is theory?
Theory is an “attempt to retrospectively explain and to

It is important first to be clear what the term theory means in an

academic sense. Cottrell provides a useful general definition:
A theory is a set of ideas that helps to explain why something
happens or happened in a particular way, and to predict likely
outcomes in the future. Theories are based on evidence and
reasoning, but have not yet been conclusively proved.
prospectively predict”

Thompson‟s definition includes similar ideas:

An attempt to explain…a framework for understanding…a set
of ideas linked together to help us make sense of a particular
Writing about social work theory, Beckett makes a connection with
…a set of ideas or principles used to guide practice which are
sufficiently coherent that they could if necessary be made
explicit in a form which was open to challenge.


It will be useful if we understand the different types of theories taught and the
logic as why are these theories imparted to the students.
It may be logical to group these theories in broader categories
Theories of evolution,
Theories of personality (development) & learning theories,
Theories of social organization and social change, theories of
social stratification,
Theories of individual and group behavior,
Theories of deviance, crime and correction,
Theories of economic growth and development, theories of group
dynamics and leadership,

Any Time Any Where

Theories of social work (clinical practice) etc.


Curriculum Development Centre in Social Work Education,

University Grants Commission, India recognized three
elements of social work curriculum
1. Values of the profession
2. Skills and methods that are developed for the professional
3. Major theories and concepts
Objectives of teaching theories
1. Refinement of practice
2. Provision of changing theoretical inputs to the social work
knowledge base
3. Building up of new theories from the practice data
The centre has recommended to include many different
theories discretely and dispersaly but failed to do a wise
selectivity of appropriate theories to be taught rationally and
coherently and imparting knowledge of these theories
compactly as an independent course that are taught in other
disciplines eg. Sociological Theories, Modern Economic
Theories, Contemporary Political Theories, Psychological


Thompson explains that there are different levels of

theories. These are:
 Grand, macro-level or global theories
(sometimes known as meta-narratives), such as
Marxism or Psychoanalysis, which claim to be able to
explain everything in society, or all human behavior;
 Middle-range theories which focus on a limited range
of issues – for instance, labeling theory, which from a
social integrationist perspective aims to explain
 Micro theories developed to explain very small-scale
situations – for instance, relationships between staff and
patients on a hospital ward.


The term theory is

loosely used in social
work profession. The use
of social work theories in
professional literature is
rather ambiguous.
Concepts, frames of
reference, practice
models and philosophical
propositions have been
termed as theories.


How theories help social workers?

Social workers might use theory to understand and
explain three main aspects of social work
1. The task and purpose of social work – the role
of social work in society;
2. Practice theories: sometimes called social
work approaches or methods – how to go about
doing social work;
3. The world of service users, including the
internal (psychological) world and the external
(social) world


In social work, the term ‘theory’ covers three different

Provable explanations why something happens (Explanatory
Organized description of activity in a structured form
Ways of conceptualizing the world or a particular subject


Conceptual Frameworks

Theories OF Social Work Theories FOR Social Work

Orienting Theories Practice Frameworks

Practice Perspectives Practice Theories Practice Models

Theories of social work

Focus on the profession and explain its purpose, domain, and character within the society.
They describe what the profession is all about and why it functions as it does.
Theories for social work
Focus on clients and helping activities. They explain human behaviours, the social environment,
how change occurs and how change can be facilitated by the social worker in order to benefit


Practice Frameworks
Orienting Theories Practice Perspective Practice Theory
Orienting theories describe and This is a particular way of It offers both an explanation of
explain behaviour and how and viewing and thinking about certain behaviours or situations
why certain problems develop. practice. It is a conceptual lens and guidance on how they can
They provide important through which one views social be changed. A practice theory
background knowledge and are functioning and it offers very serves as a road map for
usually borrowed from other broad guidance on what may be bringing about a certain type of
disciplines such as biology, important considerations in a change. Most practice theories
psychology, sociology, practice situation. Like a camera are rooted in one or more
economics, cultural lens, a perspective serves to orienting theories. An example
anthropology, and the like. focus on or magnify a particular is psychosocial therapy, which is
Examples feature. Two perspectives, the based primarily on
include the various theories general systems perspective and psychodynamic theory and ego
related to human development, the ecosystems perspective, are psychology. Another is
personality, family systems, commonly used in assessing behaviour therapy, which is
socialization, relationships between people derived from the psychology of
organizational functioning, and and their environment. learning
political power, as well as
theories related to specific Practice Model
types of problems Practice Model is a set of concepts and principles used to guide
such as poverty, family intervention activities. The term model is also used when referring to
violence, mental illness, teen a conceptual framework that is borrowed from one field and applied
pregnancy, crime and racial in another, for example, the medical model (study, diagnose, treat)
discrimination. and the legal model (an approach to social action and client advocacy,
involving competition and conflict among adversaries).


Framework for Social Work Practice

Social work draws from many frameworks for practice, but some of these frameworks have had
more influence on the profession of social work than others. The three influential frameworks are
The Ecosystem Perspective
This perspective focuses on the interplay between the person and his or her environment. To
understand the functioning of the individual, we must understand his or her environmental context:
Individuals exist within families
Families exist within communities and neighborhoods
Individuals, families, and neighborhoods exist in a political, economic, and cultural environment
The environment impacts the actions, beliefs, and choices of the individual
The Strengths Perspective
This perspective is built on the assumption that every individual, family, group and community has
strengths and focusing on these strengths leads to growth and overcoming difficulties.
Under this perspective, clients are generally the best experts about what types of helping strategies
will be effective or ineffective.

The Cultural Competence Perspective

This perspective is the understanding and approval of cultural distinctions, taking into account the
beliefs, values, activities, and customs of distinctive population groups.
Many cultures have prescribed ways of talking about health and the human body and these factors
impact a person's reaction and acceptance of health services.
These perspectives are consistent with a Family-Centered or Client-Centered approach, which is
central to the standards of best practice with persons with disabilities and consistent with social
work's central values and framework.


How might theory be of use to social workers?

Social work, like all professions, uses theory to guide practice.
Observation: theory provides guidance on what a social worker
might need to look out for when meeting people who use services or
carers and their families.
Description: theory provides a generally understood and shared
language in which these observations can be organized and recorded.
Explanation: theory can suggest how different observations
might be linked in a framework that explains them.
Prediction: theory can indicate what might happen in the future.
Intervention: theory can provide ideas about what might bring
about a change in the situation.


The importance of theory

Theory is important, in social work and social work
education for a number of reasons because it:
Theory is the mark of a profession;
Theory can ensure accountability;
Theory can help avoid discrimination;
Theory provides a way of making sense of complexity
and uncertainty

Social Work …..The profession for people


Why should Social Workers be concerned about theory?

Observation: it tells us what to see, what to look out for

Description: it provides a conceptual vocabulary and

framework within which observations can be arranged
and organized.
A clear theoretical
perspective guides Explanation: it suggests how different observations
and influences might be linked and connected; it offers possible causal
social work relationships between one event and another
practice in five key
Prediction: it indicates what might happen next

Intervention: it suggests things to do to bring about



What do we mean by theory in social work?

Payne (1991: 52) helps us by distinguishing four types of theory

1. Theories about social work explain the nature and role of social work in
2. Theories of social work describe which activities constitute social work, set
aims for social work activities and explain why those activities are relevant
and effective in meeting the aims
3. Theories contributing to social work are the psychological, sociological and
other theories which explain or describe personal and social behaviour
and are used to make theories of social work systematic, related to general
social science explanations and to give supporting evidence for the social
work theory’s prescriptions
4. Theories of social work practice and method prescribe in detail how the
other theories so far outlined may be applied in the interaction between
workers and clients

Social Work …..The profession for people


Is social work a teachable practice? Or does it come from

experience and creativity?
Some argue that Social work is less technical, more creative and
intuitive. Both client and social worker are important when dealing
with issues as the client is the expert of his own personal life. The
ideal theory for social work would therefore be one that encourages
deep thinking and questioning, one that respects the inherent dignity
of the client and complexity of social problems... not one that
People believe that science can furnish means, but not ends.
Methods but not goals. So, Social workers must achieve something
other than technical proficiency, i.e. Understanding the human
condition, not science.
Social workers use contextual knowledge. Synthesis of knowledge
from many sources, including personal experience. Common sense
and wisdom on the job


Ecological System Theory

3 Crisis Theory 4 Urie Bronfenbrenner Empowerment Theory
Kathleen Ell E. Cox & L. Gutierrez
B. Gilliland & R. 8 J. Lee, E. Canada,
James P. Chatterjee & S.P. Robbins
L.G. & H. J. Parad Family Life Cycle

Cognitive Psychodynamic Theory Humanistic (Existential/

Theories 6 Sigmund Freud, Eric Erickson Transpersonal)
Alfred Adler 9 Abraham Maslow,
2 Jean Piaget Carl Rogers
Family Systems Strategic Carl Jung
1 Therapy
7 (Model) 10
Theories Object Relations Theory
B.F. Skinner Margaret Mahlen, Otto
Ivan Pavlov Social Work Theories Kernberg

Social-Cultural Theory
Lev Vygotsky: Solution Focused Therapy Structural Family Therapy
Thomas Scheff: 11 (Model) Murray Bowen, Virginia Satir
Social Work …..The profession for people


Professional Research Knowledge from

Values Methodology
other Disciplines

Recognition & Knowledge about Raising Awareness

Analyze of Different about Life Long Learning
Social Theories regard to (Professional /Personal
Processes Different Development)
Social Work Fields

Knowledge & Skills to Work

Understanding of Legal & with Clients
administration Learning about
Procedures & Social Care Different Theoretical
Institutions Functioning Approaches

Social Work …..The profession for people


Social Work Practice Social Policy as theory

Encounters pressing need Seeks cultural Change
Needs personally left Requires social action
Requires immediate action Calla for long term strategy
Focuses on interpersonal practice Stress on strategic planning/analysis

Social Work …..The profession for people


Why do we need theories in social work?

In order to see the beauty of one theory,
The use of theories makes Social it’s important to learn about many
Workers feel more safe & competent theories. This is how we can prevent
in their practice, reduces feelings of making an ideology out of one theory
helplessness & fear of unknown

For social workers theory is important

because it teaches social workers how to The more social workers use theories,
perceive people through their resources, not less they use intuition, and it makes
to classify them according to their social work practice more professional’s a shift from control to help. and efficient

Theory, together with intuition is a way to develop

personal style of professional practice...without
theory, just with intuition, social workers would feel
like a puppet on strings.

Social Work …..The profession for people


Major Theories – Used in Social Work Practice

Systems Psychodynamic Social Learning Conflict Theory

Theory Theory Theory
Primary Perspectives
 Strengths  Feminist  Eco-Systems
Current Social Work Practice Models
Problem Task- Solution Narrative Cognitive Crisis
Solving Centered Focused Behavioral

In brief, social work practice models are like recipes. They are step-by-step guides
for client sessions. Perspectives represent what aspects of the session are
emphasized or highlighted in a session (i.e. questions asked or time spent).
Theories are overall explanations of the person-in-environment configuration.
Theories help explain why the problem is occurring and where the most efficient
intervention should take place.

Social Work …..The profession for people


Types of theory
Formal written accounts Moral, political, cultural
defining the nature and values drawn upon by
Theories purposes of welfare (e.g. practitioners for defining
explaining what upon by practitioners for ‘functions’ of social work
social work is defining personal pathology,
liberal reform, Marxist,
Formal written theories of Theories inductively
practice (e.g. casework, derived from particular
Theories family therapy, group work); situations; can be tested to
explaining how applied deductively; general see if they apply to
to do social ideas may be applied to particular situations; also
work particular situations unwritten practice theories
constructed from
Formal written social Practitioners’ use of
science theories and experience and general
empirical data (e.g. on cultural meanings (e.g. the
explaining the
personality, (e.g. the family as an institution,
client world
marriage, the family, race, normal behavior, good
class, gender) parenting)


A general statement about the real world whose essential truth can be supported
by evidence obtained through the scientific method. – Must explain in a provable
way why something happens. Ex: Learning theory explains behavior on the basis of
what organisms have learned from the environment.
Is a blueprint for action. It describes what happens in practice in a general way.
Ex: The behavioral model (based on learning theory) gives specific guidelines to for
how to effect change. If a parent complains that his child is having difficulty staying
in his own bed at night and the parent has been allowing the child to sleep in
his/her bed( thereby reinforcing the child‟s difficulty) the practitioner would help the
parent to extinguish the behavior by removing the reinforcement.
A way of perceiving the world flows from a value position. Note: The perspective
will influence choice of theory and model. Note: Payne (1997) argues that social
work theory succeeds best when it contains all three elements of perspective,
theory and model.
Example: Men who batter their partners
Theory: Social learning theory – men learn their violent behavior in their family of origin,
and from a culture that rewards anger and violence in men; cognitive theory – what men
say to themselves in situations of stress increases their anger and their propensity to be
violent. Model: Cognitive-behavioral Perspective: Feminist


Levels & Definitions of Social Economic Development Practice in Social Work

Levels of Major Purposes, Outcomes, or Processes
Practice Associated with Levels of Social Work Practice
Individual & Through "self help," "mutual aid," and "conscientization" strategies individuals and
Group groups learn how to perceive and act upon the contradictions that exist in the social,
Empowerment political, and economic structures intrinsic to all societies.
Conflict Efforts directed at reducing: (1) grievances between persons or groups; or, (2)
Resolution asymmetric power relationships between members of more powerful and less
powerful groups.
Institution- Refers both to the process of "humanizing" existing social institutions and that of
Building establishing new institutions that respond more effectively to new or emerg-ing
social needs.
Community- Through increased participation and "social animation" of the populace, the process
Building through which community's realize the fullness of their social, political, and
economic potential; the process through which communities respond more equitably
to the social and material needs of their populations.

Nation- The process of working toward the integration of a nation's social, political,
Building economic, and cultural institutions at all levels of political organization.
Region- The process of working toward the integration of a geo-political region's social,
Building political, economic, and cultural institutions at all levels of social organization.
World-Building The process of working toward the establishment of a new system of interna-tional
relationships guided by the quest for world peace, increased social jus-tice, the
universal satisfaction of basic human needs, and for the protection of the planet's
fragile eco-system.


While considering a theory or theories, social workers also understand its limitations too:

Recognise that no single theory can explain everything:

When a person engages in an action (or inaction) the reason
for their behaviour can be rooted in a range of causes or
Limitations of Theories

Related to the first point, recognise that some theoretical
approaches just don't work with some people. Applying Brief
Solution Focused Therapy can be really effective with some
people. For other people, it leaves them cold.

Always apply the value base to theory - much of the theory

used in social care practice and social work is drawn from
outside of the profession. Theory may have its roots in
education, psychology or management. As such, it may not
incorporate social work values and you should take
responsibility for applying these
Never be intimidated by theory. You use it every day.


Why do we need to apply social work theory to practice?

Whilst individual social work Using theory can help to
theories have different Theories can help us to justify actions and
purposes, using all kinds of make sense of a situation. explain practice to
theory in our work offers us, Using theory, we can service users, carers
generate ideas about
as social workers, some and society in general.
what is going on, why
important things. 1 The aim is that this will
things are as they are etc. lead to social work
For example the
becoming more widely
In work with individuals, information obtained as accountable and
making use of the theories part of an assessment can
ultimately more
which may relate to their seem like a jumble of respected.
information - applying
specific situation will give us
more direction in our work theory can help "make
with them. 4 sense" of the information.
It is clear then, that
theory is important in
Using theory can give an explanation about why an action practice - both for work
resulted in a particular consequence. This can help us with service users and
review and possibly change our practice in an attempt to for social work to be
make the consequences more effective. 5 more valued in society.


The vast majority of Social Workers function within one of four basic models of practice: the Personal Social Services
Model (PSSM); the Social Welfare Model (SWM), the Social Development Model (SDM), and the New World Order
Model (NWOM).

The Personal Social Services Model

The Personal Social Services Model (PSSM) of social development practice seeks to extend to people everywhere a range of basic social
services that are needed to either restore or enhance their capacity for social functioning. The model's primary goals are: 1) to provide
remedial and preventive services to individuals, families, and groups whose optimal social functioning is either temporarily impaired or inter-
rupted; and 2) to extend social protection to population groups that are threatened by exploitation or degradation. The PSSM also seeks to
ensure increased sensitivity and responsiveness on the part of human service providers to the special service needs of culturally diverse
population groups.

The Social Welfare Model

The Social Welfare Model (SWM) of social work (development) practice is rooted in comparative social policy and comparative social
research. The goals associated with the SWM include: 1) self help; 2) mutual aid; 3) humanitarianism; and 4) the establishment of effective,
preferably universal, systems of formal social provision. The SWM also views developmental social welfare practice as part of the worldwide
movement that seek to promote social security and social justice for people everywhere

The Social Development Model

The Social Development Model (SDM) has its origins in community organization and community development practice and does, therefore,
promote the fullest possible participation of people in determining both the means and goals of social development. In doing so, the model
seeks to provide a framework for understanding the underlying causes of human degradation, powerlessness, and social inequality every-
where in the world. The ultimate goal of the SDM, however, is to guide collective action toward the elimination of all forms of violence and
social oppression.

The New World Order Model

The New World Order Model (NWOM) of social development practice is closely associated with the writings of "visionary" economists, political
scientists, legal scholars, and environmentalists (Brandt Commission, 1981). Major components of the NWOM are reflected in the
fundamental social, political, and economic reforms in the existing international "order" that are being sought by the United Nations (UN,
1990; UN/ESCAP, 1992b), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP, 1997), World Bank 1997) and other leading international
development assistance organizations. Elements of the NWOM also have been described by social work theoreticians.
The NWOM asserts that the most serious problems confronting humanity are rooted in the fundamental inequalities that exist in the present
world "order," i.e., in the system of international social, political, and economic institutions that govern relationships between nations and,
within nations, between groups of people. In promoting its social change objectives, the NWOM calls for the creation of a "new world order"
based on: 1) recognition of and respect for the unity of life on earth; 2) the minimization of violence; 3) the satisfaction of basic human
needs; 4) the primacy of human dignity; 5) the retention of diversity and pluralism; and 6) the need for universal participation in the process
of attaining worldwide social transformation..


Theories widely used in Diagnostic & Theories with social / Concepts/ Theories /
Clinical Social Work Sociological thrust in Social Philosophies (Lesser
Work Used)

Psychoanalytic Theory Gestalt Theory Existential Social Work

Sigmund Freud Fritz and Laura Pearls, Paul (Compared with the book of
Ego Psychology Goodman Ecclesiasts in Old Testament
Post Freudians -Anna Freud, Heinz Role Theory – Zen Buddhism in the East)
Hartman, Erik Erikson Ruth Benedict, Kingsly Davis Jean Paul Satre and others
Psycho Social Therapy In Social Work Transactional Analysis
Began with Mary Richmond’s recognition Pearlman, H.S. Stream etc (social Treatment Model)
of social factors & later given a thrust by Behaviour Modification Therapy Eric Berne
Gordon Hamilton, Annette Garrett, Austin ( Action Therapy) Meditation and Social Work
& Hollis BF Skinner etc Treatment
Problem Solving Theory Family Therapy Arose from psycho
Helen Harris Perlman, Barbara Betz (Structural Family Therapy – philosophical systems of
Functional Theories Strategic Family Therapy or American Indians, Central
Widely influenced by the philosophy of Systems Therapy) Asian Sufi Tradition, Chinese
Herbert Mead, John Dewey & Otto Rank Task Centered Treatment Taoism, Hindu Yoga, Zen
The Client Centered Therapy (Also Crisis Theory Buddhism, Catholic Christian
referred as Relationship Therapy, Group Harvard School of Psychiatry & Tradition and Jewish
centered therapy, Person centered therapy Public Health Mysticism
Carl Rogers, Virginia Axlines (Play therapy) General Systems Theory The Life Model of Social
Cognitive theory L. von Bertalanffy and others Work Practice
Also known as Rational psychotherapy, Communication Concepts
cognitive case work -Use in social work by and Practice
Harold Weiner, Alfred Adler


Theories of Human Behaviour


Includes: Includes: Classical psychodynamic theory,
Ecological Systems Cognitive theory, Ego-psychology, Object-relations
[Systems Perspective] Behavioral theory, theory, Self-psychology
Includes: Social Learning theory [Social [Psychodynamic Perspective]
Family Systems Behavioral perspective]
[Systems Perspective]

[Developmental Perspective; built
PSYCHOSOCIAL upon Humanistic Perspective]
[Developmental Perspective] Theories
Human [Social Constructionist Perspective]
[Rational Choice Perspective] Behavior
[Social Constructionist Perspective]
[Conflict Perspective]

Social Work …..The profession for people


Theories of Human Behaviour

Theory of Focus of Theory Main Concepts Regarding Human Behavior

Human Behavior
SYSTEMS THEORY How persons *Persons are in continual transaction with their environment
Includes: interact with their *Systems are interrelated parts or subsystems constituting an ordered whole
Ecological Systems environment. *Each subsystem impacts all other parts and whole system
[Systems Perspective] How the family *Systems can have closed or open boundaries
Includes: system affects the *Systems tend toward equilibrium
Family Systems individual and *Individual functioning shapes family functioning and family systems can
[Systems Perspective] family functioning create pathology within the individual
across the life- *Boundaries, roles, communication, family structure influence family
span functioning
BEHAVIORISM & How individuals *Imitation & reaction to stimulation shape behavioral learning
SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY develop cognitive *Knowledge is constructed through children physically and
Includes: functioning and learn mentally acting on objects
Cognitive theory, through acting on *Intelligence is an evolutionary, biological adaptation to
Behavioral theory, their environment environment
Social Learning theory [Social *Cognitive structures enable adaptation & organization
Behavioral perspective]
PSYCHODYNAMIC How inner *Unconscious and conscious mental activity motivate human
THEORY energies and behavior
Includes: external forces *Ego functions mediate between individual and environment
Classical psychodynamic theory, interact to impact *Ego defense mechanisms protect individuals from becoming
Ego-psychology, Object-relations emotional overwhelmed by unacceptable impulses and threats
theory, development *Internalized experiences shape personality development and
Self-psychology functioning
[Psychodynamic Perspective] *Healing occurs through attention to transferences and the
treatment relationship

Social Work …..The profession for people


Theory of Focus of Theory Main Concepts Regarding Human Behavior

Human Behavior
PSYCHOSOCIAL How internal & external *Human development occurs in defined & qualitatively different stages that
DEVELOPMENTAL forces shape life are sequential & may be universal
THEORY development, generally *Individual stages of development include specific tasks to be completed &
[Developmental by life stages crises to be managed
Perspective] *Time & social context shape & individualize the meaning of life stages

TRANSPERSONAL How the spiritual and *Focuses on meaning, connection, and purpose
THEORY religious aspects of human *Some people achieve developmental level beyond the personal (ego-
[Developmental existence can be based) level into transpersonal (beyond self or ego) levels of
Perspective; built upon understood consciousness and functioning.
Humanistic Perspective] How spiritual *There is an inherent tendency to express innate potentials for love,
development builds upon creativity, and spirituality
and goes beyond bio- *There is a difference between psychopathological phenomena and
psychosocial development spiritual growth experiences
SOCIAL EXCHANGE How persons *Antecedents, consequences, personal expectations, and interpretation shape and
THEORY minimize costs maintain behavior in the present
[Rational Choice and maximize *Self-interest determines social exchange
Perspective] rewards through *Unequal resources determine power inequities and reciprocity is essential
social exchange *Six propositions:
--Success proposition --Stimulus proposition --Value proposition --Deprivation-
satiation -- proposition --Aggression-approval proposition --Rationality proposition

SOCIAL How socio cultural *All experience is subjective and human beings recreate themselves through an
CONSTRUCTIONISM and historical on-going, never static process
[Social Constructionist contexts shape *Knowledge is created through an interplay of multiple social and historical
Perspective] individuals and the forces
creation of *Social interaction is grounded in language, customs, cultural and historical
knowledge contexts
How individuals *All phenomenon, including the sciences, must be approached with doubt in
create themselves order to understand how people construct reality
*Humans are self-interpreting beings


Theory of Focus of Theory Main Concepts Regarding Human Behavior

Human Behavior
SYMBOLIC How the “self” is *Human action is caused by complex interaction between and within
INTERACTIONISM influenced and shaped individuals
[Social Constructionist by social processes *Dynamic social activities take place among persons and we act according to
Perspective] and the capacity to how we define our situation
symbolize *We act in the present, not the past
*Individuals are actors on the stage and take on roles, interacting with the
CONFLICT How power *All societies perpetuate some forms of oppression & injustice and structural inequity
THEORY structures & power *Power is unequally divided & some groups dominate others
[Conflict disparities impact *Social order is based on manipulation and control by dominant groups
Perspective] people‟s lives *Social change is driven by conflict, with periods of change interrupting periods of
*Life is characterized by conflict not consensus
CONTINGENCY How individuals & *Groups are open, dynamic systems with both change and conflict present
THEORY groups gain power, *Groups are stratified, with different and unequal levels of power and control
[Systems access to resources, *High discrimination and low privilege equals low opportunity
Perspective] & control over their *Oppression occurs when upward mobility is systematically denied
lives, often through *The social context must be critiqued and deconstructed
collective action *Assumptions for analyzing organizations:
--there is no best way to manage organizations
--there must be a match between the environment and internal resources
--the design of the organization must fit with the environment

Social Work …..The profession for people