Chaos theory and complexity theory, collectively known as nonlinear dynamics or dynamical systems theory, provide a mathematical framework for thinking about change over time. Chaos theory seeks an understanding of simple systems that may change in a sudden, unexpected, or irregular way. Complexity theory focuses on complex systems involving numerous interacting parts, which often give rise to unexpected order. The framework that encompasses both theories is one of nonlinear interactions between variables that give rise to outcomes that are not easily predictable. This entry provides a nonmathematical introduction, discussion of current research, and references for further reading.
Neil B. Guterman and Muhammad Haj-Yahia
Community violence represents a widespread concern receiving increasing attention by social workers. This article considers the problem of community violence and our present understanding of its extent and consequences. Evidence is growing that identifies risk and protective factors linked with community violence exposure, particularly those of a demographic nature. At present early evidence points to potentially helpful ameliorative and preventive strategies for social workers to consider at the micro and macro levels.
Human service corporations provide opportunities that social workers are just beginning to recognize. Although the commercial provision of services has negative features, expansion of the for-profit sector bodes well for those professionals willing to consider it as a practice setting. Corporations have become prominent service providers in hospital management, nursing home care, managed care, child care, welfare, and corrections. Because for-profit firms are often more competitive than nonprofit agencies, privatization is likely to contribute to corporatization human services.
Mark R. Rank
Poverty has been a subject of concern since the beginnings of social work. This entry reviews three key research areas. First, the extent and dynamics of poverty are examined, including the measurement of poverty, patterns of cross-sectional and comparative poverty rates, the longitudinal dynamics of poverty, and poverty as a life-course risk. Second, reasons for poverty are discussed. These are divided into individual versus structural level explanations. The concept of structural vulnerability is offered as a way of bridging key individual and structural determinants in order to better understand the existence of poverty. Third, strategies and solutions to poverty are briefly reviewed.
Rosemary Barbera, Mary Bricker-Jenkins, and Barbara Hunter Randall Joseph
Since the beginning of the profession, progressive social work has been characterized by a lived commitment to practice dedicated to advancing human rights and social and economic justice. Since the mid-1980s, the rise of global capitalism has vitiated support for robust social welfare programs and has had a conservatizing effect on the profession, rendering the progressive agenda both more urgent and more difficult. The economic crisis of 2008 has seen a rise in people suffering, while at the same time those programs that would help ease suffering are being cut back, further perpetuating the myth that austerity is the cure for the disease that it has caused. Meanwhile, the modernist ideals that gave rise to progressivism are being challenged by postmodernist thinkers. Progressive social work has responded to both challenges with innovation and energy, but theoretical and practical conundrums remain.
Mike Fabricant and Robert Fisher
Settlement houses are a prism though which the turbulent history of social work can be viewed. This article specifically examines the genesis of social settlements over the past century. It describes the early work of the settlements in spearheading social reform and building community solidarity. It explores the relationship between historic shifts in the political economy and the changed work of settlements, particularly the development of neighborhood houses. Finally, it emphasizes the dynamic interplay in the past twenty years between corporatization of not-for-profit culture, shrinking government funding, and the redefinition of settlement services.
Sondra J. Fogel
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination as well as a complex social issue with psychological implications for both those who are harassed and those who perpetrate the harassment. Women continue to be primary targets, although men, youths, and sexual minorities are increasingly pursued. Legally prohibited in the workplace and educational institutions, sexual harassment persists in personal interactions as well as by electronic means despite prevention efforts such as education programs and zero-tolerance policies. This entry will define sexual harassment, provide an overview of its prevalence, and describe approaches for its remedy.
Paula T. Morelli and Jon Kei Matsuoka
Social impact assessment (SIA) is the process of analyzing (predicting, evaluating and reflecting) and managing the intended and unintended consequences on the human environment of planned interventions (policies, programs, plans, and projects) and any social change processes brought into play by those interventions so as to bring about a more sustainable and equitable biophysical and human environment (Vanclay, 2002). This subfield of impact assessment attempts to identify future consequences of a current or proposed action related to individuals, organizations and social macro-systems. SIA is policy-oriented social research often referred to as ex-ante evaluation, which involves pre-testing actions/interventions, or analyzing consequences.
Since the 19th century, social movements have provided U.S. social work with its intellectual and theoretical foundations and and furnished many of its leaders. Social workers were among the founders of the Progressive movement and have played important roles in the labor, feminist, civil rights, welfare rights, and peace movements for over a century. More recently, social workers have been active in New Social Movements (NSMs), that have focused on issues of identity, self-esteem, critical consciousness, and human rights, and in transnational movements, such as the Occupy movement, which have emerged in response to the consequences of economic globalization, environmental degradation, and major population shifts, including mass immigration.
Jon Simon Sager
Social planning emphasizes the application of rational problem-solving techniques and data-driven approaches to identify, determine, and help coordinate services for target populations. Social planning is carried out by a myriad of organizations—from federal agencies to community organizations—attempting to solve problems ranging from child welfare to aging. The advantages and disadvantages of this empirically objective data-driven approach, including different forms, will be discussed along with past, current, and future trends within the field of social work.