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.
This entry briefly profiles the dynamic fusion, fluidity, and future of South Asians in America. While Diaspora India is emblematic of immigrant culture as a whole, South Asian duality still remains uniquely enigmatic. People from South Asia represent a confluence of diversity and complexity that calls for understanding and acceptance as a model to deconstruct a tolerant and successful pluralist society.
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.
Katharine Briar-Lawson and Toni Naccarato
Over the decades, family services have been one of the overarching features of social work practice, education, and research. Efficacy studies help to reinforce the focus on serving individuals in the contexts of their families and to address intergenerational family systems. Families provide the bulk of services to their members but require tailored resources, effective services, and supports. The growing diversity in families compels more cross-cultural competence, responsive policies, and evidence-based practices. Family service practitioners must increasingly address the social exclusion of many families while integrating economic and employment supports with counseling, skill training, and other interventions.
Valire Carr Copeland and Sandra Wexler
Despite technological advances and changes in healthcare delivery, some groups in the United States continue to have better health-related outcomes than others. This article discusses health disparities—differences in health status and healthcare utilization that are influenced by complex social structural, economic, and cultural factors. Illustrations are offered of health disparities found among diverse populations in this country. The “problem” with health disparities is then explored. From an ethical standpoint, health disparities can be seen as unjust. From a cost perspective, health disparities exact not just a financial toll that is borne by society, but individual, group, and community consequences, as well. From a human rights vantage, health disparities can further disadvantage people who are already vulnerable and marginalized—health disparities can cost people their lives. Factors contributing to health disparities, commonly referred to as social determinants, are reviewed. Finally, future directions, including social workers’ role as advocates, are considered.
Yin-Ling Irene Wong
This entry provides an overview of contemporary homelessness as a major social problem in the United States, focusing on the definition of homelessness and its prevalence, as well as on the composition and characteristics of the homeless population. It then discusses the dynamics and causes of homelessness and examines policy responses toward homelessness since the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987. The entry points to the multifaceted nature of homelessness and highlights promising interventions that have shown to be effective in addressing homelessness among members of special needs populations.
Michael A. Dover
Human need and related concepts such as basic needs have long been part of the implicit conceptual foundation for social work theory, practice, and research. However, while the published literature in social work has long stressed social justice, and has incorporated discussion of human rights, human need has long been both a neglected and contested concept. In recent years, the explicit use of human needs theory has begun to have a significant influence on the literature in social work.
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.
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.
Larry W. Bennett and Oliver J. Williams
Perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV) use coercive actions toward intimate or formerly intimate partners, including emotional abuse, stalking, threats, physical violence, or rape. The lifetime prevalence of IPV is 35% for women and 28% for men, with at an estimated economic cost of over ten billion dollars. IPV occurs in all demographic sectors of society, but higher frequencies of IPV perpetration are found among people who are younger and who have lower income and less education. Similar proportions of men and women use IPV, but when the effects of partner abuse are considered, women bear the greatest physical and behavioral health burden. Single-explanation causes for IPV such as substance abuse, patriarchy, and personality disorders are sometimes preferred by practitioners, advocates, and policymakers, but an understanding of IPV perpetration is enhanced when we look through the multiple lenses of culture and society, relationship, and psychological characteristics of the perpetrators.