Contemporary Human Behavior Theory: A Critical Perspective for Social Work (3rd Edition)
In revising this textbook for the third edition, we retained the overall structure of the first two editions and added new theory content that we believe is critical for social work practice at the beginning of the 21st century. In addition to many chapter updates, exciting new additions to the theory base are:
• A full chapter on feminist theory
• Wilber’s full integral theory, which includes and transcends transpersonal experience
• Knowledge about normal childhood sexuality
• Expanded content on successful aging and geotranscendence
• Expanded content on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and intersexed (LGBTQI) persons
There is no question that human behavior is complex. It is this very complexity that makes it difficult to design a single textbook that adequately covers the knowledge base necessary for courses in the Human Behavior in the Social Environment (HBSE) curricular area. Most textbooks are based on either a social-systems perspective or a life-span development approach, although some have now attempted to incorporate a slightly broader range of theory while retaining an overall systemic or life-span approach. Books utilizing a social-systems perspective typically have been organized according to systems levels; thus, content on individuals, groups, families, organizations, institutions, and communities has been divided into separate chapters. In contrast, those texts utilizing a life-span approach have been organized the same way as life-span textbooks found in psychology, with each chapter reflecting a different stage of the life span.
Although systems theory and developmental theory are important components of human behavior knowledge, we believe that by themselves, they reflect a rather narrow and individualistic definition of human behavior and an underlying ideology that is, at its heart, politically conservative.
We wrote this textbook with several purposes in mind. First, we hope to broaden the scope of our social-work knowledge base about human behavior. Rather than relying on the largely psychological (and traditional) approach to human behavior that utilizes a person-in-environment framework, we have adopted a broader definition of human behavior that focuses on the person and the environment, giving equal focus to each.
Second, we hope to expand our theoretical base in understanding human behavior. We have chosen a multidisciplinary theoretical approach that incorporates relevant theory from a variety of social and human science disciplines that have traditionally been omitted from HBSE textbooks.
Third, we hope to illuminate the fact that all knowledge about human behavior is socially constructed and thus is inherently value laden and ideological. As such, our knowledge base reflects the values, concerns, and ideologies of not only the authors constructing theories and studies but also the prevalent values, concerns, and ideologies of the existing social order (historical or contemporary).
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we hope to encourage critical thinking about the knowledge and theories that we choose for practice. To accomplish this, we believe that it is important to use consistent standards to evaluate each theory and to provide a discussion and critique of alternative views and an analysis of the social, ideological, and economic structures of society that impact individual problems. Most often, critical thought and analysis of this nature have been omitted from human behavior textbooks in social work. Above all, we hope that this book will be intellectually challenging to BSW, MSW, and PhD students alike and that it will encourage you, the reader, to question some of your most deeply held assumptions about why people behave the way they do and to better understand the role of various influences on human behavior.
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