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Social and cultural factors in casework practice : an examination of the recognition of social and cultural factors in the problems of children from particular ethnic backgrounds, based on a sample of cases from the Vancouver Child Guidance Clinic, 1955 Hatcher, Frank Sydney

Abstract

The present study is an exploratory one to examine how far casework practice at the Vancouver Child Guidance Clinic recognizes socio-cultural factors in the etiology of the child's problem, where the parents belong to particular ethnic groups. The method is a composite one using both survey and case-study techniques. From a reconnaissance group of forty cases, representing families from sub-cultural groups, ten cases are selected for intensive study and analysis. These ten cases fall naturally into two groups, of five eases each, one of which is a fairly homogeneous group of families with predominantly Jewish cultural backgrounds, while the other is a heterogeneous group of families from various European cultural backgrounds. A schedule is used to select diagnostic statements from the diagnostic study period of the case records according to the predominant orientation: that is, psychological, psychosocial, or socio-cultural. Classifications are made of recorded socio-cultural diagnostic statements, and statements referring specifically to culture. A case-study is used to examine how far casework practice recognizes socio-cultural factors in both the diagnostic and treatment periods. A questionnaire, filled in by the caseworkers, is used to show the intellectual orientation of casework practice at the Vancouver Child Guidance Clinic. The findings suggest that casework practice in this setting is predominantly oriented towards a psychological interpretation of the child’s problem with a consequent under-evaluation of the role social and cultural factors play in determining human behavior. There is a need for clearer recognition of social and cultural factors in the etiology of human adjustment and maladjustment. Although there are indications that other areas of knowledge are considered important by some caseworkers, there is evidence of need for better integration of relevant social science concepts with the skills and techniques of casework practice. This holds implications for social work education on both graduate and under-graduate levels.

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