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Human Development &Social Systems

Part I: Theories & Perspectives

Week 2


  • What questions do you still have about the content?
  • How will understanding theoretical frameworks help unpack social work practices?
  • Did you enjoy the reading check activity?

Review: Escape from W1

Think about the W1 reading check activity and concepts covered.


APA format


Theories & Perspectives

Quick guide

Cultural Perspectives & SW

NASW Standards

Case Study: Celia Sanchez

Small group discussion

Theory vs. Theory

Small group and large group discussion

End of Class: Review

Self-reflection and open discussion

Social Stratification

Large group discussion





FeminismInteractions of individuals and social forces affect development, oppression and discrimination, and institutional structure and functioning







Conflict TheoryTensions among groups shape social structures

FunctionalismAspects, or functions, of a society work together to maintain stability

Symbolic InteractionismWays in which people and systems interact, and the meaning that people attach to those interactions, shape individual experiences and society

CulturalismIndividual experiences help give structure to experiences and shape society

Theories & Perspectives

Use this quick guide for review.

  • Understand how policies and programs affect culturally diverse clients.
  • Support efforts that advocate for professional diversity in social work education and practice.
  • Work toward eliminating service barriers for culturally diverse clients.
  • Provide leadership in cultural competence for the profession.

Cultural Perspectives & SW

  • Recognize how personal and professional values impact work with culturally diverse clients.
  • Continually develop knowledge around cultural diversity.
  • Use culturally appropriate methods in work with clients.
  • Be knowledgeable about culturally appropriate services for clients.

How do you plan to address social stratification and privilege in your social work practice?


Why social workers need to be aware of social location and stratification?Duration: 20 minutes

Does the NASW code of ethics address social stratification and power in the practice of social work?

Theory vs.Theory

In your small group, build a case for why your assigned theory is the best. Duration: 15 minutesEach group will have 3 minutes to present to the class.

Share your group's findings with the class. Duration: 5 minutes

In your small group, use your assigned theory to analyze the case study. Duration: 20 minutes

Case Study: Celia Sanchez

Identies:Woman, Wife, Mother, Sister, Aunt, Immigrant, Latina

Download the case study document from the chat.

What assumptions does this theory make regarding this Celia’s issues/problems?

What is 1 strength and 1 limitations of this theory when applied to Celia?

How may a cultural perspective be applied when working with Celia?

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment to improve the world."

- Anne Frank

1 thing you want to learn more about


Incorporating sociological theories and perspectives offers social workers a balanced approach to their work.

In the chat, tell us ...

1 takeaway from today’s class

1 question you want to follow up on

Next week: Applying theories to SW practice

Altmann, G. (2018). People, network, social media [Photograph]. Pixabay. https://pixabay.com/photos/people-network-social-media-3139194/

Rogers, A. T. (2022). Human behavior in the social environment: Perspectives on development and the life course (6th ed.). Routledge. Chapter 4.


Always use APA format!

  • Offers clients an alternative viewpoint to problems
  • Understanding manifest and latent functions of social institutions can help social workers target interventions
  • Tenets of theory fit well with ideas from systems and ecological theories
  • Focusing on changing dysfunction within a system could be an empowering approach for clients


  • Provides a useful way to assess problems
  • Focus on the meaning clients place on their experiences can be empowering
  • Approach to assessment fits well with the humanistic perspectives and can be combined with other theories
  • Tenets have been useful in postmodern research.

Symbolic Interactionism

  • Focuses on equality and the role of the dominant structure in causing and perpetuating client problems
  • Tenets have helped guide postmodern research
  • Has raised awareness of multiple points of view on issues.



Limitations of Culturalism

  • There is no single, coherent theory of culture
  • Concepts may be difficult to define, apply, and test empirically
  • Cannot predict behavior

Limitations of Feminism

  • Focuses on women at the expense of other minoritized groups
  • Can be difficult to define and empirically test concepts
  • Cannot predict behavior

Consider its application in family and healthcare settings.

  • Can be used to conceptualize interventions in community-based practice
  • Helps social workers understand the complexity of client problems
  • Focuses on how power can bemisused to create inequality and to disenfranchise clients

Conflict Theory


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  • Offers ways to articulate, organize, and understand cultural elements of clients’ lives
  • Helps social workers to be more culturally competent in practice.


  • Does not offer a clear way in which to intervene with clients
  • Too micro-focused
  • Lacks a solid, consistent theoretical base from which to examine relationships
  • Can be difficult to define and empirically test constructs
  • Difficult to predict behavior

Symbolic Interactionism


Limitations of Functionalism

  • Little attention given to the complexity of interactions that take place among systems
  • Does not address the inequity that may result from a system’s manifest and latent functions
  • Can be difficult to use for developing interventions
  • Can be difficult to define and empirically test constructs.
Limitations of Conflict Theory
  • Focus is limited to the macro level
  • Interventions based on conflict can be difficult to carry out
  • Can be difficult to define and empirically test constructs

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