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UMBC Dept. of Social Work FACULTY


SOWK 388: HUMAN BEHAVIOR IN THE SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT I
FALL 2006

Human Behavior in the Social Environment I provides knowledge and understanding, and its
application to practice issues, of human development and social functioning at the individual,
small group, and community/organizational/societal levels. Through the use of both theory and
research findings, students explore the complex interrelatedness of individuals and the various
systems that comprise their social environment. Particular emphasis is placed on understanding
how race, ethnicity, culture, gender, and socioeconomic factors contribute to and influence
personal development and the social functioning of individuals and family systems. The specific
life-course focus is on normal development from neonatal through childhood.

The course uses an ecological perspective to present development and social functioning in the
context of mutually interacting influences from the biological, psychological, and sociocultural
realms. Holistic general systems concepts and principles provide a foundation for understanding
the characteristics of all systems, and the unique possibilities for the many variations in
experience that make for diversity among people. Selected concepts and theories relevant to
understanding behaviors and change at each system level -- person, family, group, organizations,
and communities -- are examined.

The purpose and focus of social work practice is presented through the function of
biopsychosocial assessment, forming the application component of the course. The course
provides examples of assessment tools for individual, family, and small group life space analysis.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

Knowledge Objectives

1. Learn key concepts from ecological-systems theory as applied to systems of
different sizes.

2. Understand basic concepts from selected major theories of human development
and social organization as they relate to systems of different sizes.

3. Understand basic developmental processes, achievements, and challenges from
birth through childhood, and the interrelated contribution of biopsychosocial
factors in different forms of adaptation and coping.

4. Enhance knowledge of the influence of human diversity - including race, gender,
ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation - on individual development and the context
of that development, and on the social functioning of systems of different sizes.

1 5. Acquire knowledge of the impact of oppression, racism, ethnocentrism, sexism,
and social injustice on human development from the neonatal stage through young
childhood.

6. Begin to understand the social and structural characteristics of macro systems
such as neighborhoods, communities and agencies, and their impact on
individuals and families.

7. Begin to relate the understanding of human development and social functioning to
social work assessment at different system levels, with an emphasis on individual,
family, and small group assessment.

Skill Objectives

1. Examine diverse life-spaces using the tools of theoretical concepts and findings
from research literature.

2. Analyze human behavior and social functioning from an ecological-systems
perspective that addresses the transactional relationships among individual,
family, group, community, and larger institutions.

3. To recognize the nature and significance of diversity and its impact on personality
development, social functioning, and values, with specific attention to differences
in gender, race, culture, class, and sexual orientation.

4. Begin to relate the understanding of human development and social functioning to
social work assessment at different system levels, with an emphasis on individual,
family, and group assessment.

Attitude Objectives

1. Increase awareness of the complexity of human development and social
functioning, the range of human diversity, and the utility of different theoretical
frameworks.

2. Develop commitment to cultural competence in understanding and assessing
diverse life spaces and systems of different sizes.

3. Increase awareness of personal values, prejudices, stereotypes, and assumptions to
enhance one's capacity to practice in an effective and nonjudgmental manner with
diverse individuals, groups, and communities.
4. Internalize the values and ethics of the profession, including self-initiated and life-
long learning, and respect for individual worth and human dignity.


2 REQUIRED TEXTS (Note: These books will be used in SOWK388 and in SOWK389).

1. Zastrow, C. H. ; Kirst-Ashman, K. K. (2006). Understanding Human Behavior and the
th
Social Environment (7 Ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

2. Robbins, S.P.; Chatterjee, P. & Canda, E.R. (2006). Contemporary Human Behavior
th
Theory (7 Ed.). Boston MA: Allyn & Bacon.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS

1. Readings

Students are expected to read the required reading prior to each class session. In addition,
a list of optional readings on each study unit will be provided to students. A limited
number of selected readings will be recommended during the semester to supplement the
study units and enhance understanding of the course content.

2. Participation

Students are expected to be active participants in the class, and collaborators in each
other's learning. The class format will be a combination of large group (entire class)
lecture/discussion, and small group application and discussion.

3. Attendance

Regular and prompt class attendance is expected for the entire class period. Each
unexcused absence will lead to a 2.5 percentage point deduction from the final grade.
Documentation must be provided for an absence to be considered excused.

4. Grading and course expectations.

A handout describing the course assignments, exams, contribution of each to the final
grade, and due dates will be provided separately.

3 COURSE OUTLINE

I. Introduction: Theoretical Perspectives on Human Behavior & the Social
Environment

This unit explores the foundation knowledge requirements generated by social work's
person-in-environment focus, as well as its helping purposes and processes. The
importance of assessment in professional functioning is developed. Key concepts and
principles from the ecological perspective, systems theory, the strengths and
empowerment perspectives are introduced and applied with systems of different types
(micro, mezzo, and macro), and related to the generic social work helping role.

Required Readings for Unit I: DATE:___________

1) Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, Understanding Human Behavior and the Social
Environment, Chapter 1 (pages 1-23 and pages 38-41).
2) Robbins, S.P.; Chatterjee, P. & Canda, E.R. (2006). Contemporary Human
Behavior Theory, Chapters 1 & 2.

II. Culture, Ethnocentrism, & Racism

This unit examines key concepts of culture, ethnicity, and race and explores their
contribution to development of psychological, economic and social functioning.
Ethnocentrism and racism, and their impact, are considered as they operate on the
individual, small group, organizational and societal system levels. The professional
practitioner goal of cultural competency is introduced, as is the social work commitment
to enhancing social justice and respect for a diverse society.

Required Readings for Unit II: DATE_____________

1) Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, Understanding Human Behavior and the Social
Environment, Chapter 5.
2) Robbins, S.P.; Chatterjee, P. & Canda, E.R. (2006). Contemporary Human
Behavior Theory, Chapter 5.

III. The Life Course: Prenatal, infancy and childhood
A. Biological Systems and Their Impacts Infancy & Childhood
The unit looks at important biological variables in relation to psychological and social
variables during this developmental period. The additional power of a developmental
perspective for understanding social functioning is considered, along with key ideas from
developmental theories. Specific information about human reproduction, prenatal
influences, developmental tasks and milestones of infancy and childhood will be
mastered. The social, ethical, and personal issues related to maternal drug use will be
examined..

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REQUIRED READINGS FOR UNIT III-A: DATE___________

1). Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, Understanding Human Behavior and the Social
Environment, Chapter 2.
2) Robbins, S.P.; Chatterjee, P. & Canda, E.R. (2006). Contemporary Human
Behavior Theory, Chapter 7 (pages 198-214).

Recommended reading: 1 & 2 OR HANDOUT TBA

1). Nee, L.E. (1995). Effects of psychosocial interactions at a cellular level. Social
Work, 40, 259-262.
2). Perloff, J.D. and Jaffee, K.D. (1999). Late entry into prenatal care: the
neighborhood context. Social Work, 44, 116-128.

B. Psychological Systems and Their Impacts on Infancy & Childhood

The unit examines theories of psychological development, and approaches to
understanding individual uniqueness. Cognitive theory and concepts, including
developmental stage changes in thinking and reasoning, are introduced. Emotional
development, self-esteem, and the importance of opportunities for mastery, autonomy,
and development of self-regulation are considered.

REQUIRED READING FOR UNIT III-B: DATE_____________

1) Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, Understanding Human Behavior and the Social
Environment, Chapter 3.
2). Robbins, S.P.; Chatterjee, P. & Canda, E.R. (2006). Contemporary Human
Behavior Theory, Chapter 6 (pages 162-171 and pages 258-265).

EXAMINATION #1: ______________

C. Social Systems and Their Impacts on Infancy and Childhood

The unit examines the family as a system, and socialization processes, particularly
discipline, as key transactions between the developing child and the environment. The
special role of peers and play in development is considered.

REQUIRED READINGS FOR UNIT III-C: DATE___________

1) Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, Understanding Human Behavior and the Social
Environment, Chapter 4.
2). Robbins, S.P.; Chatterjee, P. & Canda, E.R. (2006). Contemporary Human
Behavior Theory, Chapter 11 (pages 349-356).

5
IV. Biological Systems and Their Impacts on Adolescence

The nature of change and adjustment which characterizes adolescence is the focus of
this unit. The unit draws attention to how biological development and maturation
both affect how adolescents perceive themselves and how they behave. This unit
serves as the link between 388 & 389.

REQUIRED READINGS FOR UNIT IV: DATE_____________

1) Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, Understanding Human Behavior and the Social
Environment, Chapter 6.

V. Gender Roles and Sexism

Early developmental accomplishments of gender and sex-role identity take place in the
context of familial and societal values and attitudes about gender. This unit examines the
concept of gender, research concerning male/female differences, and implications for
development and functioning. Also presented are the phenomena of gender role
stereotyping and sexism. Issues of significance in the lives of women (comparable
worth, economic inequality, sexual harassment, sexist language, rape and sexual assault,
battering) are considered, and special counseling needs of women discussed.

REQUIRED READING FOR UNIT V: DATE_____________

1) Zastrow, C. and Kirst-Ashman, K. Understanding Human Behavior and the
Social Environment, Chapter 9.

VI. Sexual Orientation

This unit examines the meaning of diversity in sexual orientation, with a particular focus
on homosexuality and bisexuality. Research and theories concerning why people are
lesbian or gay are explored, and significant issues, including the impact of discrimination,
in the lives of gays and lesbians are addressed.

REQUIRED READINGS FOR UNIT VI: DATE______________

1). Robbins, S.P.; Chatterjee, P. & Canda, E.R. (2006). Contemporary Human
Behavior Theory, Chapter 7 (pages 233-245).

2) Berkman, C.S. and Zinberg, G. (1997). Homophobia and heterosexism in social
workers. Social Work, 42, pp. 319-332.

VII. Contemporary Issues: Application of Theory to Social Work Practice. DATE______
1). Robbins, S.P.; Chatterjee, P. & Canda, E.R. (2006). Contemporary Human
6 Behavior Theory, Chapter 7 (pages 245-257).

EXAMINATION #2 ___________

COURSE EXPECTATIONS AND GRADING

Grading for the course will be based on three in-class tests, three written assignments, and small
group participation/presentation. In-class exams will be based on all required reading as well
as class lectures and handouts. Attendance and punctuality for classes and time dedicated to
library reading and research is assumed. Students whose circumstances will seriously interfere
with prompt, regular, and a complete class attendance, or with time for library study reconsider
taking this course at this time. The relative contribution of each component to your final grade is
outlined below.

FIRST WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT
(Due: _______________) 10 points

EXAM 1 (____________) 20 points

SECOND WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT
(Due: _____________) 15 points

EXAM 2 (_____________) 20 points

DISCUSS PAPER #3

THIRD WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT
(Due _____________________) 20 points


Small Group participation/Presentation 15 points (5 for attendance to
class/meetings)
Group 1-
Group 2 -
Group 3 -
Group 4 -
Group 5 -

I assume that students will complete and turn in assignments and take examinations on the dates
indicated here, on the course calendar, and as announced in class. A make-up examination will
be possible only in the event of unavoidable emergencies or extreme problem circumstances.
You must provide documentation and you must communicate with me concerning your
inability to take an exam or quiz prior to the time of the test. Without such an advance
discussion I will not consider a make-up and you will receive a “0”.

7 If you need an extension of time for a written assignment, that also must be communicated to me
at least several days before the due date. I will not negotiate extensions on the day an assignment
is due or after the date it is due. Remember: Professional behavior for accountability requires
that you let others know ahead of time when you cannot be counted on as expected. ALWAYS.


HONOR CODE

UMBC Catalog

Dishonesty, cheating, plagiarism, and other irregularities in academic work are causes for
appropriate disciplinary action. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, the
submission of purchased term paper.

NASW Code of Ethics

Social workers are continually aware of the profession’s mission, values, ethical principles, and
ethical standards and practice in a manner consistent with them. Social workers act honestly
and responsibly…

...Social workers should represent accurately and fairly the[ir] qualifications, views, and
obligations…

…Social workers should take adequate measures to discourage, prevent, expose, and correct
the unethical conduct of colleagues…
8 WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS

There are three required written assignments that are due in class on the dates noted in your
course outline.


PAPER #1 PLEASE LIMIT THIS PAPER TO 4- 5 PAGES.(Due in class _______)

A. Identify a real neighborhood (your own, or one you have some knowledge of). Thinking of
this neighborhood as an example of a system, use the concept of boundary and describe as many
different examples of boundaries for your neighborhood as-a-whole system as you can (sub-
system boundaries don't count). How permeable is each boundary? Briefly discuss how any
one of these boundaries influences for better or worse the social functioning of your
neighborhood, as a neighborhood.

B. Next, keeping your focus on the neighborhood-as-a-whole system (not subsystems in the
neighborhood) describe examples of input and output for your neighborhood. Choose one of
your examples of input or output and discuss briefly its influence for better or worse on the social
functioning of your neighborhood.

Expected outcome competencies:

1. Beginning ability to think about a macro system (neighborhood) as a system-as-a-whole,
not just a collection of parts.

2. Recognize abstract properties of systems in the concrete details of real life circumstances.

3. Apply and connect basic systems concepts to beginning assessment of good and less good
social functioning at a macro system level.


PAPER #2 (Due in class ________)

Interview a parent(s) with a young child(ren) -- infants through 12 years old -- who are from a
culture (ethno system) different than your own. Your objective is to understand the meaning and
influence of their culture for their attitudes, views, and specific practices in raising their children.
Before your interview, spend some time thinking about specific questions that would help open
up exploration of this issue. Ask the parent(s) also about how they see their own
attitudes/views/practices with respect to raising kids in comparison to those of other members of
their own ethno system (cultural group).

Present your findings in a short (5-8) page paper covering the following 4 items: 1) Briefly
describe the family you interviewed. Identify the culture (ethno system) with which the
interviewed family identifies; 2) Discuss the meaning and influence of that culture on
childrearing, as reported by the parent(s); 3) Discuss the parent(s) view of themselves in relation
9 to other members of their own culture; 4) Compare and contrast the differences/similarities of the
interviewed family (again, with respect to childrearing) with those of your own culture.

Expected outcome competencies:

1. Gain expertise in how to effectively help people tell you about the unique meaning of
culture for them with respect to a particular aspect of their life space and social
functioning.

2. Distinguish between intra and inter-ethnic differences in a life-space.

3. Develop self-awareness of your own (often implicit) culturally determined views and
biases about an important area of social functioning (how to raise kids).

PAPER #3 (Due in class _________)

For this written assignment you are going to use critical thinking and social work assessment
skills to identify and analyze biopsychosocial factors in a hypothetical "case."
The case will be provided by the professor.

The key skills you will be asked to use and demonstrate in your paper are the following:

1) CRITICAL THINKING. Critical thinking skills enable you to distinguish between your own
preconceived ideas and beliefs, and knowledge that you have gained from systematic inquiry and
thinking.

2) BIOPSYCHOSOCIAL, LIFE-SPACE FOCUS. Skills in applying the biopsychosocial
framework to a problematic life space allow you to gather comprehensive data concerning
biological, psychological and social factors, and their interactions, as the basis of social work
assessment.

3) CLARIFYING THE GOODNESS OF FIT BETWEEN PERSON AND
ENVIRONMENT.
Skill in seeing and specifying key problems in a life space in terms of the problems in fit between
the needs and capacity of the individual(s) and the demands and opportunities of the environment
allows you to complete a social work assessment that captures the transactional nature of person-
in-environment reality.

4) PROFESSIONAL SELF-AWARENESS. The skill of self-awareness in the context of your
professional work allows you to identify and better manage the normal emotional reactions and
value judgments you bring to the problematic life-space, which can color what and how you see
that life-space.


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