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Human Behavior and Social Environments

Human Behavior and Social Environments: A Biopsychosocial Approach

Dennis Saleebey
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  • Book Info
    Human Behavior and Social Environments
    Book Description:

    Human behavior is a subject so vast that it would seem to defy one's ability to comfortably and confidently grasp its varieties, nuances, shapes, and dynamics. But in this wide-ranging and comprehensive survey of the contexts of human behavior, Dennis Saleebey examines the different social science approaches to understanding the way humans react to and are affected by their environment.

    Using a biopsychosocial perspective, this book demonstrates that there are many paths of knowledge, many methods of inquiry, and many perspectives that can guide one's understanding of human behavior. Resilience (how we cope with trauma) and meaning-making (how we see and make sense of the world around us) provide the conceptual framework of the book. Saleebey examines a number of specific theories relevant to the biopsychosocial approach: part/whole analysis, psychodynamic theory, ecological theory, cognitive theory, and radical/critical theory. Human development is presented as a continuing interaction between individual, family, community, social institutions, and culture. Pedagogical devices to aid the student include chapter overviews, case studies, and meaning-making dialogues at the end of each chapter that pose questions for further thought.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52886-3
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-33)

    Newspaper headlines announce the perplexities, terrors, magnificence, and drama of human behavior every day. Rebels in Sierra Leone slaughter innocent civilians as civil society disintegrates; a man risks his life to save a cat trapped on a telephone pole; a young woman gives birth to a baby during her senior prom and after delivering it in the restroom disposes of it in the trashcan and returns to the dance; a man who suffered the most egregious abuse as a child now spreads the word to others about how he survives—even thrives—as an adult; the gap between the rich...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Meaning-Making
    (pp. 34-60)

    Jerome Bruner, long a luminous figure in developmental psychology and personality development, contends that meaning-making and storytelling are essential elements of the human experience.

    I argued in favor of a renewal and refreshment of the original revolution [in cognitive psychology], a revolution inspired by the conviction that the central concept of a human psychology is meaning [author’s emphasis] and the processes and transactions involved in the construction of meanings. (Bruner, 1990, p. 33)

    Without a fundamental core of meaning about which we can have conviction, life becomes problematic. Let us imagine two people confronting the death of a loved one. They...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Strengths and Resilience
    (pp. 61-91)

    Why is it that we are we so fascinated with aberration, catastrophe, pathology, disorder, and sickness? Why is it that in so many of our encounters with others, through the media, or in our professional life, we are drawn to what is amiss, deviant, weird, corrupt, or even disgusting? We see in our daily round of life, in newspapers, on television, in the movies, and in our personal experience examples of human frailty and evil that astonish, discourage, and, yes, fascinate us. We cannot deny, either, that in our professional concerns, ideologies, and theories we have celebrated the pathological and...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Biopsychosocial Understanding
    (pp. 92-131)

    The nature of the relationship between the body, mind, soul, and the environment is, at worst, a confusion, and, at best, a thrilling intricacy. I have no illusions here that I will somehow be able to unravel and stitch together again these marvelous connections. But as a social worker, your profession proudly announces its ability to understand people and their environments in this holistic and transactional way. You will be called upon to deliver assessments of people that reflect the complexities of these elements of the human condition—body, mind, soul, environment. So in this chapter, I will discuss some...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Nature and Nurture, Neurons and Narratives: Putting It All Together
    (pp. 132-170)

    In this chapter, I will attempt to weave together some of themes from the previous discussion of the three conceptual frameworks as well as the philosophical motifs of the book. To do this, let us discuss two areas: the interplay between the influence of the physical and social environment and the influence of genes and constitutional factors on human behavior and aspects of child development, and the biological basis of major mental disorders, especially depression and schizophrenia.

    This is a droll heading, but it is meant to evoke an issue that recently has been raised dramatically, forcefully, and controversially by...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Theories: Part I
    (pp. 171-204)

    Jacques Barzun once remarked that the etymological heart of the word theory is “to see.” I would add that good theory also might allow us to see differently, to gaze at the ordinary world we inhabit with a new appreciation and insight. Theory often offers us an uncommon look at the commonplace; it may dramatically jolt our taken-for-granted worldview. Theory is a more or less systematic way to make more sense of, to come to an understanding about, the world of our sensations and experience. But as Russell Jacoby suggests in the above epigraph about the decline in Marxist theory,...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Theories: Part II
    (pp. 205-250)

    From chapter 6 it should be clear that there are many ways to think about theory and its role in understanding human nature and the human condition and in guiding professional knowing and doing. Theory as narrative, theory as ideology, theory as authoritative claim, theory as collective construction, theory as hypothesis, and theory as explanation all, in various combinations, have been asserted as the nature of the beast. But, in one sense, the test of any theory for a social work practitioner seeking some wisdom to guide practice is the extent that it can unravel complex human experiences; it has...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Person/Environment, Part I: Families—The Variety of Us
    (pp. 251-296)

    I have learned a few things about raising a family. First of all, I am no expert. Parenting is a learning experience. In a way we are no more than camp counselors to our children, guiding them through the woods. We do not own them or their thoughts. We can influence them, in the short time we have them, by our good or bad examples. I hope I have learned enough from the good and bad things that have happened to me in my childhood to give my kids a better shot at being caring and wise children of the...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Person/Environment, Part II: Coming into Being in the Family and Community
    (pp. 297-339)

    Coming together as partners or a couple, perhaps intending to have children, or actually bringing children into the world are serious and intricate commitments. These are life transitions whose impact on us and the changes that they bring can be significant and telling, frightening or glorious, and most certainly opportunities for development, self-reflection, recasting one’s meaning system, and discovering sources of strength. They also can be troubled passages rife with disquieting moments that challenge our capacity to adapt. In this chapter, I will discuss some of the pressures and opportunities that exist when people come together to become a family;...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Person/Environment, Part III: Growing Up in Family and Community
    (pp. 340-369)

    In this chapter, we look at middle childhood in the context of family, community, and culture. As a society we have shoved the years of middle childhood somewhere to the hinterlands of our collective consciousness. With community support, family interest, and captivating schools, children in this time of expansive development lay the groundwork of citizenship and adulthood in ways we do not fully understand. We also probably do not completely grasp the other influences that help propel these children in one direction or another—their peers and siblings, the culture, the marketplace, and sociohistorical happenings of the moment. Let us...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN Person/Environment, Part IV: Coming of Age in Family and Community
    (pp. 370-417)

    A mother says, “Frankly, my teenage son scares hell out of me.” A school district hires an “expert” in profiling adolescents, that is, providing the school with an array of explicit and detailed behavioral, physical, and emotional criteria that he assures will clearly identify an adolescent who has a propensity to violence. (Following its better instincts, the school district cancels the contract.) Some school districts agree to a “zero tolerance” policy (that is, basically, one strike, one violation, and you are out—of school—at least temporarily). Representations of adolescents in the media fairly burst with unflattering portrayals and powerful...

  16. CHAPTER TWELVE Person/Environment, Part V: Maturing and Aging in Family and Community
    (pp. 418-473)

    It was Freud who maintained that the major task of adulthood was to come to terms with the intimacies and intrigues of love (lieben) and the demands of work (arbeiten), to find joy and fulfillment or maybe just resolution there. Rueben Fine claims that Freud did not use the terms lieben and arbeiten but rather leistung and genuss, which translate to achievement and enjoyment (1983). Since that time, other authors and students of human development have expanded on this notion. George Vaillant, whose work we’ve encountered in previous chapters, maintains that the definition of maturity turns on the availability and...

  17. CHAPTER THIRTEEN Reprise, Vision, and the Final Conversation
    (pp. 474-498)

    I nevitably there are ideas, theories, evidence, and perspectives that are missing, that I have forgotten or shortchanged. In this final chapter, I want to acknowledge some of those. Further, I want to craft a vision of what Stanton Peele once called “a world worth living in.” Finally, I want to give Meredith and Mitchell a more extended time to finish their conversations and dialogues. The two come from the voices in my head, the conglomerate gabby memories of family, students, scholars, friends, and colleagues I have known over the years.

    Each one of you has ideas and perspectives that...

  18. Index
    (pp. 499-510)