Article

Ethnicity

Haluk Soydan

in Social Work

ISBN: 9780195389678
Published online May 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0049
Ethnicity

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Like social class, gender, and age, ethnicity defines the values, behavior patterns, and life styles acquired, held, and cherished by individuals, groups, and communities. The general categories of values, behavior patterns, and lifestyles break down to an almost infinite number of human dimensions, such as sex roles; relationships with peers of both sexes; sense of marriage; marital relations; child bearing, nutrition, and raising; adaptation to physiological changes; dealing with social, psychological, health, and mental health problems; and moral judgments. Social work as a profession of help, support, and empowerment of individuals, groups, and communities operates in a context of ethnic dimensions while aiming to impact the deficits they generate, partly or entirely. Social work research benefits from the findings of social anthropologists, ethnologists, sociologists, and others, which helps social workers understand ethnic minority clients and their communities, and they can adopt such findings in their work and integrate them into social work practice models. Ethnically diverse populations may present multiple challenges, including language and communication, understanding and accepting ethnic differences between the client and the social worker, and understanding how to approach ethnically generated problems for unbiased and efficient interventions. One specific challenge is to understand whether a client’s problem is ethnically driven; many problems are generated by other categories, such as sense of belonging to a social class, migration situation (e.g., illegality, stigmatization, social exclusion), gender, and age. Reducing clients’ problems to ethnicity inaccurately could lead to false problem diagnosis and inappropriate intervention. The literature on ethnicity and social work addresses issues relevant to several research disciplines, including anthropology, ethnology, and sociology, as well as social work. Typically, the literature on ethnicity and social work treats a set of associated ethnic concepts, such as markers, identity, category, relations, conflicts, discrimination, and integration, and the ways in which such factors may condition social work with ethnically diverse populations. Understanding the role of ethnic markers such as religion, values, and traditions is pivotal to successful social work interventions because these markers define the essence of problems the clients present and the meaning they attribute to their problems, as well as influencing the clients to accept a diagnosis and the resulting, recommended interventions.

Article.  5823 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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