Elaine M. Maccio
This entry briefly covers the history, demographics, research, clinical practice, diversity, debates, and trends surrounding marriage and domestic partnership in the United States. Who marries and why, when, and at what rate people marry is covered, as are some of the statistics behind alternatives to marriage, such as cohabitation, domestic partnership, and civil unions. It is beyond the scope of this entry to discuss in detail relationship dissolution and divorce, although information is provided insomuch as it relates to marriage and domestic partnership.
The ability to form close relationships with others is a crucial component of life span development. In fact, an inability to do so may be considered partial criteria for some types of mental disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Psychologist Erik Erikson (1980) theorized that young adults must master intimacy over isolation if they are to move successfully through his proposed stages of psychosocial development. Apart from these theoretical obligations, much of global society sanctions the forming of close relationships that it deems appropriate. Proms, engagements, weddings, and anniversary celebrations serve to socially reinforce (usually heterosexual) couplings and the norms surrounding acceptable relationships.
Marriage is the legal, and most often consensual, partnering of two persons of either sex. Domestic partnership can refer to any unrelated persons 18 years of age or older living together for a minimum specified period of time (for example, one year) and in a financially interdependent relationship. Both unmarried heterosexual couples and same-sex couples can apply for domestic partner status in those jurisdictions, companies, and institutions that recognize it. However, such distinction still falls short of the 1,138 federal benefits and protections afforded to legally married couples (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1997, 2004). For example, access to a partner's Social Security benefits, Medicaid and Medicare benefits, and veterans' pensions, and the exemption from gift and estate tax liabilities, are just a few of the laws mentioned in the U.S. Code that are affected by marital status. Only marriage offers couples such entitlements; civil unions, a proposed substitute for same-sex marriage and available in only a handful of states, afford no federal benefits and protections.
Darrell P. Wheeler
Jordan I. Kosberg and James P. “Ike” Adams Jr.
Growing up a male comes with challenges that can influence the quality and length of one's life. Attention is directed to gender role socialization that can result in gender-related physical, social, and mental health problems that can be exacerbated by poverty, ethnicity, advanced age, and minority group background. Understanding how men can cope with their problems, as well as reasons for their failure to utilize community resources, should be of concern to social workers. A balanced approach in the portrayal of men, and the creation of effective interventions that reach and assist men, seem consistent with social work values.
A consistent theme for the majority of men in the United States remains the code of manhood. Men are expected by society to be stoic in the face of danger and to play out, in all aspects of life, the idea of the rugged individual going it alone, even in the face of a quickly changing world. Whereas social-work theorists and practitioners talk about male aggression, sexuality, intimacy, depression, anxiety, addiction, ageing, and work-related concerns, most men are less likely to view these as problems. If they do enter into counseling or treatment, they are less likely to remain for any length of time. Faced with these issues, practitioners are challenged to find ways of engaging men and forming successful collaboration and meaningful outcomes.
Eun-Kyoung Othelia Lee and Ruth McRoy
This entry defines the concept of multiculturalism and explains, from a historical and contemporary perspective, its evolution and significance in social work. The relationship between multiculturalism and socioeconomic justice, oppression, populations at risk, health disparities, and discrimination is explained. The importance of preparatory training for social workers to meet the challenges of multiculturalism is highlighted and examples of cross-cultural training models are provided. Implications of multiculturalism for clinical practice and policy development are discussed.
Social workers often come in contact with women, men, and adolescents who use prostitution as a means of survival. Individuals may earn their entire income in this manner. They may use it to supplement low earnings or welfare benefits, or they may exchange sex for drugs, shelter, or the protection of pimps. Violence, drug use, arrest, and transmission of sexually transmitted disease (STD) or HIV are constant risks of prostitution. Those who engage in prostitution, whether as prostitutes or as clients, represent the entire spectrum of American society. This entry discusses a number of psychosocial issues relevant to understanding the lives of women who engage in prostitution and implications for providing social work supports and services.
Michael P. Dentato
This entry discusses the critical and ongoing need for the expansion of competency related to understanding queer identities and issues related to positionality within queer communities. It will examine the evolving terminology and context through which the term “queer” has been defined over the years and relevant challenges with connectedness to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Age cohort associations and the role of intersectionality will also be explored to underscore the multidimensional discourse necessary to build effective competency with queer communities. Last, this entry will examine implications for best practices related to establishing and maintaining an affirming therapeutic alliance between queer clients and social-work practitioners, as well as the continued need for research related to queer identities and the queer community.
Marjorie R. Sable and Patricia J. Kelly
Reproductive health includes family planning, prenatal care, and the broader scope of primary care. Because a woman's health status at conception is as important as prenatal care, genetic screening and 20th century medical technology, reproductive health includes “the preconceptual and interconceptual periods and the menopause, and finally, not only reproductive tract problems but the wide range of risk factors that influence a woman's health in general.” Quantitative indicators of reproductive outcomes are useful for summarizing progress in reproductive health. Important indicators are discussed and reveal significant racial disparities.
Judy L. Postmus
Sexual assault or rape affects millions of women and men in the United States; however, it is only in the last 30 years that it is being considered a social problem. During this period, many policies at the state and federal levels have attempted to address sexual assault and provide legal remedies for victims. However, sexual assaults are still the most underreported crime in the United States and are accompanied by bias and misinformation that plague our response. Social workers play a crucial role in offering services to survivors and advocating for more education and awareness in our communities and universities.
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.