Summary of social work graduate programs prepared by Melissa C.F. Becker, MSW, September 2000
Return to the table of contents to see the other material.


Human Behavior in the Social Environment sequence description: 

This sequence, which also extends over both years of study, deals with community and organizational structures and behavior, as well as the processes of growth and personality development of the individual within the contexts of family, group relationships, and the broader community. Human behavior is examined in the light of personal and cultural norms and values as they relate to people’s day-to-day functioning in society. The sources and manifestations of stress, deviant behavior, and pathology are explored together with the impact of disease and disability on social functioning. Courses in this sequence include community and organization theory, organizational behavior, the dynamics of human behavior, psychopathology, and elective seminars on the family, aging, ethnic and class differences, and family behavior. 

201A-201B. Dynamics of Human Behavior: Lecture, two hours; discussion, one hour. Biopsychosocial factors associated with individual and group behavior and development as applicable in social functioning of individuals and groups. Emphasis on theoretical issues and research evidence which contribute to a unified theory of human development.

202A-202B. Dynamics of Human Behavior: Requisites: courses 201A-201B. Deviations and pathologies or stresses in physical, emotional, and social areas of human functioning as those problems relate to role and function of the social worker.

205. Cross-Cultural Awareness: Lecture, two hours; discussion, two hours. Designed to aid students in development of professional perspectives that will allow them to work effectively with members of myriad cultural groups, to discuss with clarity alternative concepts of culture in determination of individual behavior responses, and to identify their own personal cultural values and assumptions.



SWGS 6105. Oppression and the Struggle for Social Justice: Designed to prepare students for work with diverse populations, with an emphasis on work with oppressed populations (i.e.. people of color, women, gay and lesbian persons, elderly and disabled populations), this course examines the nature, institutionalization, and manifestations of oppression in the United States. It focuses on the development of practice skills in the context of human diversity, values, and practice principles required to help oppressed populations toward empowerment and the struggle for social and economic justice.

SWGS 6208. Human Behavior and the Social Environment I: The is the first of a two-semester course sequence. The course presents content from the behavioral sciences and related professional literature regarding those theoretical constructs and insights most relevant for social work practice. It uses an ecosystems perspective to coordinate and synthesize a broad range of knowledge pertinent to practice concerning the transactional and interactional aspects of large and small systems.

SWGS 6209. Human Behavior and the Social Environment II: The second semester course in the Human Behavior and Social Environment sequence discusses human development over the life course. Similarities and variations in personal and social functioning; in social, cultural, and physical environments; in complex organizations and social institutions. All are examined for insights concerning the interplay between people and their environment. This focus includes biological, psychological and sociocultural factors and how the environment affects individual development. Prerequisite: SWGS 6208.



601. Human Behavior in the Social Environment I: Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. First of two foundation courses on human behavior in the social environment, covering the life course from conception through late adolescence. Provides a multidimensional perspective on social work's person-in-environment focus, based on theory and research findings. Includes contributions of biological, psychological, physical, and sociocultural forces to adaptation and/or maladaptation. Examines problems of living; impacts of racial, ethnic, class, cultural, religious/spiritual and gender diversity on human behavior; role and contributing effects of the family system; and the reciprocal nature of interactions of persons, social groups, communities, organizations, and institutions in a multicultural society.

603. Social Work and Social Justice: Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Examines historical and current social welfare and social work issues related to oppressed groups in a multicultural society. Presents theoretical models for studying discrimination resulting from persistent social, educational, political, religious, economic, and legal inequalities. Addresses misuse of power and resulting oppression. Focuses on oppressed groups in the USA in order to understand their experiences, needs, and responses. Uses a strengths approach for the study of all people of color and other oppressed groups often distinguished by gender, age, sexual orientation, ability, and class. Enhances understanding of and appreciation for cultural, social, and spiritual diversity. Raises ethical dilemmas and decisions faced by social workers who practice in multicultural settings.

610. Human Behavior in the Social Environment II: Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: SLW 601. The second of two foundation courses on human behavior in the social environment, covering the life course from young adulthood through late adulthood and/or death. Provides a multidimensional perspective on social work's person-in-environment focus, based on theory and research. Includes contributions of biological, psychological, physical, and sociocultural forces to adaptation and/or maladaptation. Examines problems of living; impacts of racial, ethnic, class, cultural, religious/ spiritual, and gender diversity on human behavior; role and contributing effects of the family system; and the reciprocal nature of interactions of persons, social groups, communities, organizations, and institutions in a multicultural society.


Georgia State

SW 7200. Human Development Through the Life Course: This course presents knowledge on developmental issues occurring throughout the life span. The focus is on gaining knowledge on individuals, families, small groups, and interpersonal relationships. Students will develop a critical understanding of current theories of well being, stress, coping, and adaptation, as well as macro issues such as oppression, privilege, and discrimination. The inter-relationships between small and large social systems will be explored, as well as how biological factors and the larger social and physical environments shape and influence individual and family well being. The implications for all domains of social work practice in the community will be discussed.

SW 7260. Social Work with the Aging: This course is designed to provide the basic knowledge and beginning skills appropriate for social work practice with older persons. Emphasizes biological, sociological, and psychological aspects of the aging process with special attention to the cultural, social, political, and economic factors affecting the delivery of social services to the aging.



SWK 4101. The Knowledge And Value Base of Social Work: The profession of social work rests on a complex knowledge foundation that has changed over time and addresses the following issues: What questions are being raised today about the nature of knowledge in our discipline?  What is the relation between knowledge(s), values and practices?  Whose perspectives do social workers take into account? What limits their understanding? What ethical considerations go hand in hand with social work and social welfare activities? How do power and difference intersect with knowledge? How do the deep transformations of our societies and major institutional changes challenge some of the profession’s working assumptions?

The course is offered every other week throughout the year, and accompanies the first-year learning.  The purpose of the course is to introduce students to the current debates about the profession and to examine the relations between knowledge, values, and ethics in various contexts of power and difference, and to explore how assumptions shape interventions in social work and social welfare. An important aspect of the course is the opportunity for students to reflect on their knowledge and value positions, to grapple with how perspectives shape our understandings, and to consider alternatives.

The course will cover the following content:

*?Sources and construction of knowledge in the helping professions; the historical nature of knowledge, and many ways of knowing.

*?Knowledge and location, standpoint and perspective. Our knowledge (lay, expert, etc) is a view from somewhere.

*?Power and knowledge. Difference, oppression and marginalization, and their relation to legitimate dominant knowledge and silenced/subjugated knowledge.

*?Values that underpin the social work profession about human nature, the nature of change, and professional assistance. Linking personal and professional realms.

*?The complex terrain of ethics in social work: conceptualizing ethics, codification of ethics, emergent practices, and professional dilemmas.

Students will draw on readings from social work texts and related disciplines, field visit, and their own reflections, based largely in the second semester on their field placement. Students will keep a learning journal (not-graded) that serves to link personal and professional knowledge.

Graded Assignments:

Two assignments: 1 paper integrating concepts, observations and reflections (40%), and a presentation/or paper that will examine an area of practice that lends itself to an ethical dilemma (60%) of the grade.

SWK 4653. Organizational Behaviour and Organizational Change: Required for POC concentration. This course provides a conceptual understanding of human service organizations and how they can be changed to produce more effective outcomes for clients.  The major topics to be covered in the course include: relevant organizational theories; the impact of agencies policies and procedures on services provided to clients; and the strategies and skills required for organizational intervention.  The strategies to be focused on in the course will emphasize a client-centered, empowerment perspective.

Assignments:  Organizational assessment, 20%.  Take-home integrative exam, 30%.  Paper on organizational intervention, 40%.  Class participation, 10%.

SWK 4106. Theoretical Foundations for Social Work Practice with Individuals, Families and Groups: This foundation knowledge course will examine a number of theoretical frameworks from an assessment perspective as they relate to different levels of analysis (e.g. individuals, families, groups, communities, organizations and society) and social work practice. Special emphasis will be placed on the critical examination of these frameworks as they apply to social work practice with diverse populations.

The goal of this course is to provide an overview of relevant social science frameworks that can be compared and contrasted, and utilized as a basis for social work practice and analysis.

The following are objectives to achieve this goal:

*?To demonstrate the applicability of psycho-social-structural theories of the human condition for assessment purposes at different levels of social work practice (e.g. the individual, family, group, community and policy).

*?To develop the ability to critically assess theoretical frameworks.

*?To explore the integration of these basic theoretical constructs to the practice of social work.



407-664B. Multicultural Practice: This course will examine current theory in "multi-cultural" social work and explore alternative models of practice based on anti-racist/anti-oppression principles. Of special interest in this course are the issues of access and equity in human services. Students are encouraged to develop critical analyses and to develop projects based on practice issues.

407-612A. Knowledge, Values and Practice: Required course. Introduction of the current debate about the status of knowledge in the social sciences, especially issues of scientific objectivity, cultural differences and their implications for social work practice.

407-601B. The Construction of Subjectivity: This course will present a critical approach to understanding how personality is constructed within the major social relations of class, gender and race. Relevance to students' research and practice interests will be explored.

407-530A. Social Perspectives on Aging I.

407-531B. Social Perspectives on Aging II.



501. Theoretical Foundations of Social Work: The application of traditional and emergent social work theories to an understanding of the relationship between political economy and everyday life.

528. Cross-Cultural Social Work Practice: Analysis of cultural, and racial background effects on social work policies, practice, and relationships. An experiential approach enhances integration of new knowledge and skills.



SW 1619. Race, Class, and Gender in the United States: Race, class, and gender as pivotal dimensions in American society. Similarities and differences between groups, dynamics of discrimination, and efforts to meet needs and achieve potential for all groups in America.

SW 5101. Human Behavior in the Social Environment: Overview of social psychological and social systems concepts. Applications of concepts to social work and human service issues. Focus on individuals, human development, families, groups, organizations, communities, and society/culture.

SW 5104. Dynamics of Discrimination: Conditions and processes fostering discrimination on the basis of "race," ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, physical/mental functioning, and religion. Methods for reducing discrimination, particularly in the human service professions.

SW 8881. Dynamics of American Indian Families: Introduction to traditional and contemporary concepts relating to American Indian families. Public policy, social problems, cultural strengths, conflicts, and culturally competent social work practice.



HBSE I & II (year long); Implication of Racism for Social Work Practice.

Human Behavior in the Social Environment (HB/SE) curriculum description:

Social work practice of any kind requires an understanding of the factors that may enhance or handicap the optimum development and functioning of the individual and society.

The courses in this curriculum area teach human growth and development throughout the life cycle. The major objective of these courses is to enable students to acquire empirical and theoretical knowledge about individuals, groups, organizations, and other collectives so that, as social work practitioners, they can apply this knowledge analytically across diverse client systems and fields of practice.

After completing the courses, students are expected to be able to solve social work-practice problems based upon knowledge drawn from the social, biological, and behavioral sciences. Students are also expected to be able to critically evaluate the utility of various theories and identify gaps in knowledge. Each student is required to take a two-semester HB/SE foundation course in the first year.

Students are also required to take a course on the implications of racism for social work practice. This course seeks to analyze and evaluate the social, cultural, political, economic, and intrapersonal contexts of racism that affect our current policies and institutional arrangements.



SSW 711. Human Behavior and the Social Environment I

SSW 712. Human Behavior and the Social Environment II

SSW 713. Human Behavior and the Social Environment III



410. Emotional Disturbance in Children & Adolescents: Childhood psychopathology: interference in normal development which results in various kinds of troubled behavior.

440. Socio-structural Foundations of Behavior: An overview of societal and institutional forces influencing behavior in communities, groups and organizations, employing theories of power, social systems and social roles.

441. Bio-psycho-social Foundations of Behavior: An examination of individual and family behavior over the life cycle employing theories of ego psychology and concepts from systems and role theory.

524. Human Sexuality & Social Work: Examines attitudes and values about sexual expression, and psychosexual development across the life cycle; topics include abortion, sex education, and birth control; implications for social work practice.


New Mexico State

HBSE I = infant and adolescent development; HBSE II = young adult and elderly development.

MSW 510. Human Behavior and the Social Environment I: The major theories of human behavior from conception to adolescence. Focuses both on the areas of concern and risk for client systems and on the opportunities and strengths in the social environment. Required. Prerequisite: majors or consent of instructor.

MSW 511. Human Behavior and the Social Environment II: Major theories of human behavior from young adulthood through old age. Focuses on the areas of concern and risk for client systems and on the opportunities and strengths in the social environment. Required. Prerequisite: MSW 510 or consent of instructor.

MSW 512. Family Theories for Social Work Practice: Theories of family development and functioning for social work practice, with emphasis on theories that address therapeutic practice with families or common difficulties in family life. Required. Prerequisite: majors or consent of instructor.



SOWK 6101. HBSE I: Comparative Theories: Comparative theories for understanding and assisting individuals, families, organizations, and communities. The theoretical foundation is based on the bio/psycho/social/spiritual, general systems theories, and ecological perspective. Theories and research will examine the influence of internal and external forces on human development and behavior. Content will include topics on diversity, culture, and social and economic injustice.

SOWK 6102. HBSE II: Theories and techniques for assessing social functioning: Theories and techniques for assessing individuals, families, and groups in the contexts of their environments will be presented. The theoretical foundation for this course is based on the bio/psycho/social/spiritual, general systems theories, and ecological perspective. Theories and research will examine the influence of internal and external forces on human behavior. Content will include topics on diversity, culture, social and economic injustice. The values and ethics of the profession will be integrated into the curriculum.


SWK 705. Human Behavior and the Social Environment I: This foundation course affirms the central focus of social work practice as the person or human group in interaction with the social environment. It will look at transactions between people and their environments as complementary parts of a system in continuous interaction. Concepts of biopsychosocial development across the life span will be presented. The changing functions of the family in response to developmental transitions will be considered. 

SWK 706. Human Behavior and the Social Environment II: This course examines the behaviors, functions, and structure of groups, communities, and organizations known as macro systems. Students are introduced to theories that explain interactions within and between each of these larger systems. The course also addresses issues related to equitable distribution of goods and services that may be encountered by macro systems. Prerequisite: SWK 705. 

SWK 707. Introduction to Gerontology: This second course examines the biological, social, and psychological aspects of aging, with special attention to the interrelationship between theoretical and practice-oriented knowledge. The course is organized around basic theories and processes of aging and considers developmental issues facing aging individuals as they move through maturity and old age. Examination of cross-cultural issues that shed light on the American experience will be introduced. Cultural/historical, class, gender, ethnic, and minority relationships to aging will be considered. Selected policy issues related to developmental changes and needs will be introduced where possible, as will earlier developmental processes that continue into advanced age. 

SWK 717. Cultural Competence: This course examines theories of cultural and ethnic identity, literature related to the cultures of women, deaf and hard of hearing people, gay and lesbian people, ethnic minorities of color, and people with disabilities. Because of the complexity of culturally competent social work practice, students are required to examine personal prejudices, stereotypes, and belief systems that negatively affect the provision of services to diverse populations. Readings on oppression, identity, and minority cultures are supplemented with presentations by experts from the community and dialogue with them. The course uses classroom exercises, written assignments, and objective measurements to increase self-awareness in the context of the student s personal identity and attitudes about difference based on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability. 



SW 540. Human Behavior in the Social Environment: Examines the biological, psychological, social, and cultural factors interacting across the life course from infancy to old age. Discusses and critiques major theoretical approaches to human development in its social and cultural contexts. Considers populations at risk and the impacts of racism and other forms of oppression on development. Emphasis on the sources of diversity such as ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation and handicapping conditions.


SW 545. Advanced Theories of Human Behavior in the Social Environment: Provides an opportunity for students to explore current theoretical developments in the social and behavioral sciences which apply to social work practice including populations at risk. Taught in different sections each of which covers social and cultural contexts for human behavior in the social environment. May be repeated for additional credit. Prerequisite: SW 540.

Eastern Washington

540. Human Development In Contemporary Environments: Selected aspects of human behavior are presented from two perspectives: person-environment and life span. Four contemporary environments-family, school, workplace, and community-are the contexts in which behavior over the life span will be considered. Emphasis will be placed on criteria for selecting knowledge, the use of knowledge in practice, and the limits of existing knowledge. 

541. Social Work With Diverse Populations: For purposes of this course, diverse populations are defined as: major ethnic/racial minorities; persons with severe and chronic physical and/or mental disabilities; and gay and lesbian communities. After brief descriptive material are presented for each population, the emphasis will be on the development of skills in working with these populations. A primary critical skill is the examination of one's attitudes and values. Models of practice with diverse populations will be presented for comparative purposes. Simulations, role plays, and other experiential techniques will be used to implement the teaching objectives. 


Bryn Mawr


I & III: biopsychosocial perspective. 3 major areas: a) the stages & phases of the life cycle; b) theories of personality & development; c) issues of human vulnerability & disturbance (psychopathology). Psychoanalytic, systems & cognitive theories comprise the conceptual framework for examining recurrent development themes.

II: Starting with a general consideration of theory and its relevance to social work practice, this course provides a working acquaintance with major contemporary sociological models which have special bearing upon social work.


Clark Atlanta

HBSE I: Review, synthesis, and analysis of selected content from humanities, physical science, social and biological sciences, for recognition and appropriate response to behaviors typically observed as social problems, issues and concerns. The pervasiveness of institutionalized aspects of racism, sexism, ageism, and classism are examined, as are selected social consequences of physical traumas, dying and death.

HBSE II: Continuation, with emphasis on behaviors of significance to professionals in human services. A "critical incidents" format utilized for analyzing unusual individual and group responses to matters such as socialization, institutionalization, illness, disease, aging, identity change, etc.


University of Alabama

Human Development & Behavior Across the Lifespan: Critical concepts, theories and research related to human biopsychosocial development across the lifespan; human development & behavior in the environmental contexts of family, groups, organizations & communities; and the impact of human diversity on human development and behavior.


Boise State

Human Development Through the Life Cycle.

Human Behavior and the Social Environment (social dimensions of human behavior).


HBSE I: Lifespan.

HBSE II: Psychopathology.

HBSE III: Marriage & Family Theories.



Human Behavior: A Life Cycle Perspective (HBSE I): Study of the life cycle from prenatal development through old age, examining the influences of biological, social, psychosocial, and cultural systems on human behavior and the implications for social service interventions.

The Nature and Etiology of Institutionalized Discrimination (HBSE II): Examines the nature and etiology of institutionalized discrimination and its implications for social work while paying particular attention to issues relating to race and gender.



HBSE I: Human Behavior in the Urban Environment.

HBSE II: Urban Policy Analysis (issues of poverty, race, gender & ethnicity as they affect social environment).



130. Theories of Individual Development (HBSE): This course will introduce students to the theories that explicate individual psychological development over the life cycle from a biopsychological perspective. These theories, taught from an historical, evolutionary perspective, include drive theory, ego psychology, object relations, psychosocial life cycle theories, and female development theories, as well as theories of intersubjectivity. Particular attention is given to sources of development of individual strength and resilience. Students will begin to learn to critique and compare theories for their applications to and usefulness for social work practice, particularly as they reflect particular sets of values and intersect with ethnicity, social class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, and other forms of diversity. Required course first summer.

131. Problems in Biopsychosocial Functioning (HBSE): This course will draw upon the individual personality theories taught in 130. Theories of Individual Development, to provide a context in which to understand problems in biopsychosocial functioning. The course will provide students with an opportunity to explore how the relationships between biological, psychological, and environmental factors can lead to the development of individual problems in functioning. Students will learn some of the tools with which to make descriptive developmental diagnoses in examining psychosis and personality disorder, as well as how ethnic, social class, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, and other social variable intersect with diagnostic issues. Required Course first summer.

132. Family Theory (HBSE): Theories forming the foundation for social work practice with families are explored as they assist in understanding: 1) the relationship between the family and its environment; 2) intergenerational family culture, structure, and process; 3) family life cycle processes; 4) internal family organization and process; and 5) individual and family meanings and narratives. Attention will be given to those theories that dominated the early family therapy movement as well as newer epistemological positions and concepts deriving from more current feminist and post-modern critiques. Newer theories emphasize practice that is more collaborative and strengths-focused. Cross-cutting the exploration of family theory are issues or ethnicity, race, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religion, and other forms of diversity as well as varying family forms. These themes will be examined as they impact on the mastery of normative and idiosyncratic life transitions and crises. Special attention is given to the relationship between theory and social justice. Required course first summer.

133. Sociocultural Concepts (HBSE): This course will introduce students to the sociocultural concepts that define the context of human experience. Concepts of culture, ethnicity, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability and other forms of diversity will be explored in an effort to understand how the interaction of these variables shapes the lives of individuals, families, and groups, the values they hold, and the meanings they give to their experiences. Applications to practice will be made. Special attention will be given to the uses and misuses of power in constructing social definitions and meaning as well as personal and group experiences, and to the ways that social definition and position affect access to services and resources. Required course first summer.

330. Child Development from Infancy to Adolescence (HBSE): In this course, we examine the biopsychosocial development of children from infancy through adolescence. We explore various theoretical frameworks for understanding how children develop cognitively and affectively, gradually constructing individual and social life at increasingly complex levels of differentiation and affiliation as the life course progresses. Particular attention will be paid to issues of attachment, separation, and differentiation. The tasks of infancy, early childhood, latency, and adolescence will be examined in the contexts of family and peer relationships and values, and in relation to the influences of gender, race, ethnicity, social class, and other cultural forces on the developing child. All of these themes will be illustrated through practical application. Finally, a critical stance in which various ideas and theories are examined in relation to the sociocultural contexts in which they develop and the values they imply is fostered. Required course second summer for students with no prior child development course.

333. Developmental Deviations in Childhood and Adolescence (HBSE): This course examines deviations in childhood and adolescence from a biopsychosocial developmental perspective. A range of psychodynamic, cognitive, and other relevant theories will be studies as they shed light on the development of child and adolescent disorders. Specific clinical entities such as pervasive developmental delays, physiological disorders, and personality, cognitive, affective, and behavior disorders are considered in terms of their etiologies and features and in relation to the practice challenges they raise. Theories are critically examined in terms of the sociocultural contexts in which they develop and the cultural values and beliefs they express. Particular attention is given to the influences of gender, race, ethnicity, and other forms of diversity on the development of deviations, as well as to the impact on children and families of various kinds of oppression and deprivation. The ways in which abuse and neglect can shape development are also examined. Required course second summer for students with prior child development courses.

334. Racism in the United States: Implications for Social Work Practice (HBSE): The nature and impact of racism will be defined and understood from both historical and social structural perspectives. Oppression, prejudice, discrimination, and the role of power in social and interpersonal contexts will be explored in terms of the social construction of individual and group racial identity and in terms of their impact on individuals, families, groups, and communities. Students will have an opportunity to examine their own experiences of both privilege and oppression. Implications for culturally sensitive and strengths-oriented practice will be explored. The unique challenges and particular dilemmas encountered in practice by both students of color and white students will be examined. Students will also learn to critically examine theories, concepts, and models of practice to assess racial bias. The course will combine lecture, discussion, and experiential learning as students have an opportunity to examine the impact of growing up and living in a racist society and practicing in racist institutions. Required course second summer.

190. Group Theory and Practice (PRAC/HBSE): This course introduces students to the history of social group work and focuses on applying the values, skills, and knowledge of the social work profession to a variety of groups. Theoretical and practical principles of group work are introduced to enhance understanding and use of group as a complex system of roles and interrelationships. Students learn how to construct task and treatment groups and how to mobilize the resources of existing groups. Primary focus is given to those dynamics which are common to all groups, and students will begin to explore how issues of difference (gender, race, sexual orientation, age, culture, class, ability, religion) affect group processes. Required course first summer.

191. The Social Worker as Change Agent in the Agency and the Community: Theory and Practice (PRAC/HBSE): This course will introduce students to the macro practice of community work with emphasis on organizing and advocacy skills needed to implement organizational and community change. The course will build on knowledge of groups to bridge the expedience between micro and macro practice. Topics for discussion include the empowering experiences for clients as well as the role of the social worker in that process. In addition, we will explore the process of change in social agencies and the skills needed to initiate that process. Students will be introduced to the Community Project assignment and begin to integrate course concepts with Project initiatives. Required course taken in the second term of both first and second summers.



Human Behavior I & II.


University of Alaska — Anchorage


Human Diversity in Social Work Practice.


George Warren Brown

Human Behavior.

Human Diversity.

Social, Economic & Political Environment.



Human Behavior and the Social Environment: This two-quarter course provides the foundation knowledge for social work practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Relevance of family, groups, organizations, communities, and social institutions to human behavior and social work practice is emphasized. Using a developmental, life course, and social systems framework, the course emphasizes the biopsychosocial circumstances that influence and determine how people grow and function. Beginning with conception and ending with death, the course includes content on genetic endowment and physical, emotional, and cognitive development. Issues of culture, ethnicity, race, class, and gender are considered interactively at each developmental level, as is the impact of the family, groups, communities, and social institutions, given their prominence as the essential social contexts for individual development.



A basic course in human diversity is required first semester. All students will take a human behavior in the social environment course. In addition, a second human behavior and the social environment course corresponding to the student’s practice area (SW 205 for direct services students; SW 210I for management and planning students) must be taken.

200. Human Behavior and the Social Environment: One two-hour lecture per week. The psychological, interpersonal, and social development of the person across the life cycle in the context of different social environments.

205. Psychosocial Problems and Psychopathology: One two-hour lecture per week. Developmental abnormalities and deviations that result in dysfunctional behavior. Examines problems and disorders of children and adults from psychological and social perspectives.

210I. Group, Organizational, and Community Dynamics: One two-hour lecture/discussion per week. Course examines theories of group, organization, and community dynamics. Topics include group leadership and decision-making, organizational goals, structure, and change, and community power and demographics.



A requirement in the area of human diversity may be met through a number of approved first and second year courses.

SSA 327. Human Behavior in the Social Environment (one quarter course): Social work intervention, whether in direct practice or social administration and policy, is based on an understanding of interdisciplinary theory and empirical research explaining human growth and behavior. This course uses an ecological systems framework to integrate the multidisciplinary theory and research used most frequently in social work to understand human development and behavior over the life course. Ecological mapping and matrix integrating transactions between biological/physical; sociocultural/structural; psychological/emotional and cognitive/intellectual domains of behavior are used to understand the "person in the total environment." Theory and research under each of these domains is examined. Some specific concepts studied include: 1) relevant neuroscience information; 2) basic social systems and ecological theory; 3) comparison of relevant psychodynamic, behavioral, and cognitive theories; 4) stress, appraisal, and coping; and 5) culture, race, and ethnicity related to growth and behavior.

Students with extensive background in the sociocultural, socioeconomic, psychological, and cognitive contexts of human growth and behavior, may, with the consent of the faculty, waive into an advanced course of Human Behavior in the Social Environment. Examples of advanced courses offered: Comparative Perspectives in Human Development (SSA 328); and Attachment Theory (SSA 329).

SSA 328. Comparative Perspectives in Human Development (Advanced HBSE): Biological, psychological, and social theories of development have generated divergent views of the human condition and problems in living. No single perspective, however comprehensive, can encompass the range of needs and multiplicity of concerns addressed within the field of social work. This course introduces a framework for comparative analysis of differing theoretical traditions in life course social science and examines representative work in three domains of study that have shaped current understandings of human development: 1) social ecological perspectives; 2) psychosocial perspectives; and 3) narrative perspectives. Students review seminal contributions and central concepts, and each perspective is analyzed in view of the core values, fundamental concerns, and larger aims of the profession. The course emphasizes the importance of critical thinking in applying and evaluating varying theories. In doing so, it shows how comparative perspectives enlarge ways of seeing, understanding, and acting in ongoing efforts to extend social work theory, research, practice, and policy.

SSA 329. Attachment Theory (Advanced HBSE): The concept of attachment provides a framework for conceptualizing the role, function, and meaning of early relationships with caregivers; the ways in which these relationships become internalized as subjectively experienced aspects of the self; and how the learning that occurs in early relationships shapes and organizes subsequent relationships with others. This course will examine the concept of attachment from theoretical and empirical perspectives. Attachment theory within the contexts of developmental theory and psychodynamic theory will be considered. The empirical contributions of attachment research, and the ways the categories of secure, insecure, and disorganized attachment can be used to understand and differentiate problems over the life course, will be addressed. Applications to clinical practice, social issues and policy, and intervention with vulnerable populations will also be considered.


Case Western Reserve


Human Development Over the Life Span.

Theories of Groups, Organizations & Communities.

Cultural Diversity requirement:

Diversity, Discrimination, and Oppression.



Human Behavior and the Social Environment I: The ecological systems paradigm is the lens through which theories of personality, family, group, organization, community and culture and the interaction among these systems are explored.

Human Behavior and the Social Environment II: The course of human life, including the factors which impinge on the developmental continuum between normal and pathological conditions.



Basic Dynamics of Individuals & Families: Ecological, systems and developmental frameworks are used to examine the influence that context has in shaping individual and family dynamics across the life span.

Dynamics of Organizations & Communities: The organizational and community context within which social services are delivered and the influence of funding, mandate and organizational arrangements on service delivery.

Cultural Diversity: The history, demographics, and cultures of various disenfranchised groups served by social workers.



SW 602. Individual Functioning in the Social Environment: This course introduces the student to the individual and family components of social interaction in a variety of milieus. Theories of self and personality are studied along with the theories related to traditional and non-traditional family styles, different social and ethnic groups, and assimilation and acculturation. Emphasis is given to the impact of different cultures and traditions on individual functioning. Additional attention is given to selected social characteristics of the larger society, such as factors of socioeconomic class which influence individual and group behavior and functioning.

SW 603. American Racism and Social Work Practice: This course explores racism in America as an historical and contemporary phenomenon. It emphasizes the development of knowledge and research into institutional systems of racism, analytical skill in understanding the complexity of institutional racism and other forms of oppression more broadly defined, self awareness, and finally, the implications of social work services and practices.

SW 612. Group, Organizational, and Community Dynamics: The focus of this course is on developing an understanding of how human behavior occurs in the context of group, organizational, and community relations. The dynamic nature of groups, organizations and communities and how they come into being, are nourished and change over time and impact upon client systems will be fully explored.

SW 613. Promoting Social Change: Issues of Race and Gender: The course builds upon the foundation knowledge developed in SW 603 and explores social change theory and methods of organizational analysis for application in specialized areas of social work practice, i.e., Health, Family and Children, Aging, Justice, and Education. It emphasizes planning for social change interventions and the development of strategies for resolving problems resulting from racism and other oppressions that have critical impact on social service provision.



Human Differences, Social Relationships, Well-Being, and Change Through the Life Course (HBSE): This course will examine multicultural and critical perspectives on understanding: individuals, families, and their interpersonal and group relationships; life span development; and theories of well-being, stress, coping, and adaptation. This course will emphasize knowledge about individuals and small social systems and the implications of this knowledge for all domains of social work practice. Students will be introduced to the concepts of risk and protective factors, with relevant examples at the individual and small systems levels. Students will also consider the implications of this knowledge for intervening in social problems and supporting rehabilitation once problems have developed. Major components of the course will be concerned with the processes of oppression, privilege, and discrimination, and factors that help people and small social systems to change. The knowledge presented will include the interrelationships between smaller and larger social systems, and in particular, how biological factors and the larger social and physical environments shape and influence individual and family well-being.

Organizational, Community and Societal Structures and Processes (HBSE): This course will examine theory and research knowledge about political, economic, and societal structures and processes related to communities, groups, and organizations within contemporary American society. Consideration will be given to ways in which these social systems have significant social, political, economic, and psychological impact on the functioning of individuals, families, and social groups. This course will provide a framework for understanding the influences of these significant social systems on individuals, families, and groups with whom social workers practice. Communities, organizations, and other large social units will be examined in terms of risk, and protective factors that promote or detract from optimal individual and group well-being.



640. Social Work with Ethnic and Racial Groups: This course prepares students for generalist social work practice in a multicultural society. It discusses Afro-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, and Asian Americans, and implications are drawn for social policy.

711. Human Behavior and the Environment: The literature on human behavior and the environment is reviewed from a biopsychosocial perspective. Special attention is given to understanding individual and family behavior and development as a function of reciprocal interactions with groups, communities, organizations, and society.

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This page posted September 23, 2000