Ruth Paris and Ellen R. DeVoe
In this entry we address the primary purpose of family in supporting the growth and development of individual members throughout the life course. Life cycle and attachment theories inform our understanding of how families function. Changing family patterns are addressed in terms of the variety of family forms, the multiplicity of needs as economies shift and life expectancy lengthens, family coping and adaptation to normative transitions and unexpected crises, and the influence of cultural and racial diversity. We conclude with brief comments on the issues for contemporary families and needs for the social work profession.
Laina Y. Bay-Cheng
This entry defines sexuality and identifies dominant explanatory models. In doing so, the entry outlines the central debate regarding the relative contributions of biology and social context. In addition, it highlights current key issues in the field of sexuality: the connection between sexuality and social inequality, the growing emphasis on the promotion of sexual health and well-being rather than just the prevention of sexual risk, the salience of sexuality across the life course, and the debate regarding sexuality education policy. Finally, it identifies parallels between these trends and social work, including the relation of sexuality to social work roles and practice.
Nancy P. Kropf
With the increase in the numbers and life spans of older adults, intergenerational relations have become more common within families, communities, and social policy. Using these three perspectives, the challenges and opportunities of bridging generational relationships are presented. Implications for social work practice and policy are included.
Jill Theresa Messing
Intimate partner violence—the continual and systematic exercise of power and control within an intimate relationship that often also includes physical and sexual violence—has emerged as a significant and complex social problem warranting the attention of social workers. Risk and protective factors have been identified at the individual, family, community, and societal levels. Some of these risk factors for repeat and lethal violence have been organized into risk assessment instruments that can be used by social workers to educate and empower survivors. Intimate partner violence has multiple negative health and mental health consequences for female victims and their children. Social workers in all areas of practice should be prepared to intervene with victims of intimate partner violence in a culturally competent manner using a strengths-based framework.
Bonnie E. Carlson
Intimate partner violence—physical, emotional, or sexual abuse experienced in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships—has emerged as a significant and complex social problem warranting the attention of social workers. Numerous risk factors have been identified in individual perpetrators and victims, as well as at the level of the relationship, community, and society. Partner violence has diverse consequences for female victims, as well as for perpetrators and children who are exposed to it. Although many female victims do seek help and end abusive relationships, seeking help from professionals such as social workers is often a last resort.
This section defines and discusses the jurisdictions of the juvenile and family courts as well as their influences on social work practice. The history of the court, several interpretations of it, as well as various reform efforts are reviewed. Opportunities for social workers to be employed by the numerous agencies affiliated with the court, as well as several nontraditional social work roles, are outlined in this section. The final two parts of the section discuss the major innovations and primary challenges faced by the contemporary court such as gender, class, and racial biases in the system, questions about the effectiveness of the court and associated programs. Finally, proposals to abolish or reinvent the juvenile court are presented.
Carole B. Cox
Kinship care refers to the full time care, nurturing, and protection of children by relatives or others with a kinship bond to a child. Although such care is offered by many in relationships to children and is defined by states in many ways, the majority of kinship caregivers are grandparents. Among the primary reasons that children enter kinship care are parental substance abuse, neglect, abandonment, parental physical and mental illness, incarceration, domestic violence, and military deployment. Kinship care families tend to be poor with most caregivers outside of the formal service system. Consequently, they face many challenges as they struggle with policies and services that frequently are not responsive to their concerns. Social workers can play major roles in assuring that programs, which build upon the strengths of these families, are both available and accessible for them.
Gerald P. Mallon
According to U.S. census data, an estimated 270,313 American children were living in households headed by same-sex couples in 2005, and nearly twice that number had a single lesbian or gay parent. Since the 1990s, a quiet revolution has been blooming in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. More and more lesbians and gay men from all walks of life are becoming parents. LGBT people become parents for some of the same reasons that heterosexual people do. Some pursue parenting as single people and others seek to create a family as a couple; still other LGBT people became parents in a heterosexual relationship. Although there are many common themes between LGBT parenting and heterosexual parenting, there are also some unique features. Unlike their heterosexual counterparts, who couple, get pregnant, and give birth, most LGBT individuals and couples who wish to parent must consider many other variables in deciding whether to become parents because the birth option is not the only option.
Lori Messinger and Jennifer Wheeler Brooks
This entry provides an overview of research on lesbians in the United States using an overarching framework of oppression and empowerment. Historical and current demographic and cultural information about lesbians will be reported, along with an analysis of personal and environmental factors critical to social work practitioners' ability to enhance the well-being of lesbian individuals, couples, and families.
Judith G. Gonyea
As a result of rising life expectancies, America’s older population is itself aging. The U.S. Census Bureau projections suggest that by the middle of the 21st century, more than 40% of Americans aged 65 and older can expect to live to at least the age of 90. Although the oldest-old is a diverse population, advanced old age is associated with a greater risk of experiencing economic hardship, disabling illnesses or health conditions, and social isolation. A growing public policy challenge will be ensuring the economic well-being, the health, and the dignity of society’s very oldest citizens.