Retirement is a modest social institution that appeared in most industrialized nations near the start of the 20th century. The aim of retirement was to solve the societal dilemma of an increasingly aged labor force by moving older workers systematically out of their jobs so as to not cause them financial harm (Atchley, 1980, p. 264). Although retirement has been considered benign since its inception, the history of retirement indicates that it is one of the main progenitors of ageism in society today (Atchley, 1982, 1993; Haber & Gratton, 1994; McDonald, 2013; Walker, 1990). Retirement and its accompanying stereotypes have been used as a tool for the management of the size and composition of the labor force contingent on the dictums of current markets in any given historical era. Ever-changing ideologies about older adults that extend from negative to positive ageism have been utilized by business, government, the public, and the media to support whatever justification is required in a particular era, with little thought to the harm perpetrated on older adults. Unfortunately, society has subscribed to these justifications en masse, including older adults themselves. In this article the ageism embedded in retirement is examined to make what is implicit explicit to social work practitioners and policymakers in the field of aging.
Christina E. Newhill
Client violence and workplace safety are relevant issues for all social workers across practice settings. This entry addresses why and how social workers may be targets for a client's violent behavior, and what we know about who is at risk of encountering violence. Understanding violence from a biopsychosocial perspective, identifying risk markers associated with violent behavior, and an introduction to guidelines for conducting a risk assessment will be discussed. The entry concludes by identifying and describing some general strategies for the prevention of client violence.
James Woolever and Jim Kelly
The study of leadership has a long history in disciplines outside of social work. Theorists have struggled with a myriad of definitions of leadership, as well as trait, behavioral, and situational leadership models. They have identified leadership types from transformational and charismatic to motivational. There has been much speculation and some study of the traits and characteristics of effective leaders, as well as effective leadership styles, abilities, and practices. Social-work theorists have contributed to this field by identifying the critical and unique characteristics of social-work leadership, such as adherence to social-work norms and orientation to the needs of disadvantaged groups. In the early 21st century, social workers have begun to elaborate technologies for creating tomorrow’s leaders through practices such as formal training, mentoring, and peer networking. There has always been, and will be, a critical need for leadership in social-work endeavors. Leadership development can be viewed from two perspectives: the individual and organizational. From the individual perspective, the system begins with a critical assessment of the individual’s strengths and limitations, along with the opportunities and threats for professional growth. Ultimately, the organization is responsible for providing resources to enable individual development. The long-term goal is to implement a developmental mind-set throughout the organization. Leadership development must be intended for all employees, not just a select few. Both individual and organizational job performance are ultimately dependent on the leadership developmental structures embedded within each organizational unit. The issue at hand is designing and delivering leadership development programs that meet the leadership requirements for today’s complex, yet changing organizations.
Darlyne Bailey, Katrina M. Uhly, and Jessica Schaffner Wilen
The concept of leadership has evolved from focusing on innate abilities, to learned skills, to recognition that leadership is composed of both skills and abilities. Recently, theorists and practitioners have identified core elements of leadership for social-work organizations. These elements encourage social-work leaders to understand their organizations as living systems within an interdependent world and aid them in connecting humanistic intentions with effects. Acknowledgment and enactment of these competencies secure skills of communication and guidance needed for engagement in dialog and action. Social-work students and leaders can learn and hone these qualities in social-work programs, schools, and professional development opportunities for effective leadership in the field.
Selena T. Rodgers
Racism is pervasive, endemic, and historically rooted in systematic assumptions inherent in superiority based on race and requires the critical attention of all social workers. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has made strides in tackling racism as demonstrated by the social worker and civil rights activist Whitney Young Jr. (1921–1971), other pioneers, and more recently, the NASW zero-tolerance racism policy. Undergirded in empirical discussion, this article leads with the etymology of race(ism), followed by a discussion of Racial Formation Theory and Critical Race Theory. The article gives a historical sketch of racism, followed by examples of its contemporary indicators—throughout social institutions—in the United States. Racism is pervasive and impinges on micro-level and macro-level systems. It is, therefore, beyond the scope of this article to address how racism impacts each group in America. Social work scholars and other experts have provided extensive empirical documentation about the historical trauma and sufferings of other racial groups (e.g., Native Americans/Native peoples/American Indians, Mexican Americans) discussed elsewhere. Specifically, the racism endured by blacks in America is the emphasis of this article. Themes of “colorism” and historical trauma are provided to contextualize advances in national reform and encourage a broader conversation about the racism that blacks experience globally. In addition, this article highlights strides by the social work profession to eradicate racism. Implications for social work are discussed.
Tomi Gomory and Daniel Dunleavy
Social work is perhaps most distinctive for its clear and outspoken commitment toward improving the well-being of society’s vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, while still emphasizing the importance of respecting and defending personal rights and freedoms. Though there is a fundamental necessity for coercion, or its threat, for eliciting civil social behavior in a well-functioning society, it is professionally and ethically imperative that social workers make explicit our rationales for, justifications of, and the evidence used to support or reject coercive practices in our work. Social work’s engagement with coercion inevitably entails the ethical and social policy arguments for and against its use, as shown in a review of the empirical evidence regarding its impact on the professions’ clients, exemplified by three domains: (1) child welfare, (2) mental health, and (3) addictions. Recommendations for future improvements involve balancing the potential for harm against the benefits of coercive actions.
Elizabeth D. Hutchison
This entry provides a brief history of social work's changing knowledge base about human behavior and identifies the current knowledge base as multidimensional, multispherical, multicultural, multidirectional, multidisciplinary, and multitheoretical. It provides an overview of eight broad theoretical perspectives currently used in social work: systems, conflict, rational choice, social constructionist, psychodynamic, developmental, social behavioral, and humanistic perspectives. Each perspective is analyzed in terms of its central ideas, practice implications, and empirical evidence. The entry ends with a brief discussion of trends and directions.
This essay broadly examines theory, practice, and the role of theory in practice. Theory has an abstract and philosophical side and a concrete, empirical, or practice side. Theories need practitioners to activate their power, which is to name the attributes, qualities, limits, and potentials of client and social work realities. No theory is so powerful it knows or explains everything, thus practitioners must use their in vivo perceptual skills to fit the best theory to the level of practice reality that confronts them. This essay broadly examines the role of theory in social work practice. To do so, one must answer three related questions: what is theory?, what is practice?, and, what is the role of theory in practice? In answering the first question, it is useful to examine the etymology of the word theory, identify its various meanings, and specify which meanings are relevant to a discussion of the role of theory in practice, and second, it is useful to understand the philosophical assumptions that inevitably influence the process of theory building and application.