Psychology for Social Workers: Black Perspectives

Psychology for Social Workers: Black Perspectives

Psychology for Social Workers: Black Perspectives

Psychology for Social Workers: Black Perspectives


Psychology for Social Workersis designed to help qualifying and practising social workers to understand and counteract the impact of discrimination, work in an ethnically sensitive way and demonstrate an awareness of ways to combat both individual and institutional racism through anti-racist practice.


In this chapter I will review the origin and development of a black perspective in psychology, with a discussion of why this perspective is necessary and its implications for social work training. I will argue that traditional psychological theories have not had sufficient explanatory power to account for the behaviour of black people.

This chapter draws upon the valuable discussions of various black authors: Jackson (1979), White (1972), Baldwin (1976, 1980), none of which are readily available in traditional psychology.

inadequacies of western psychology

Psychology is regarded as ‘the science of human behaviour’. This definition implies that ‘human behaviour in all parts of the world must be investigated, not just those aspects of behaviour conveniently available to investigators in highly industrialized nations with a history of scientific endeavor’ (Triandis and Brislin, 1984: 1006). the exclusive limitation of psychology’s databases to research in Western populations is responsible for certain inadequacies in current psychological theories and literature. For example, Curran pointed out that developmental psychology texts are generally ‘based on the behaviour of Western children in very contrived situations which bear little relation to those children’s familiar environments’ (Curran, 1984:2).

White psychologists have maintained that they were objective scientists whose research findings were politically neutral. Yet, they have embraced a number of racist themes in describing, explaining, and modifying black behaviour. These themes can be

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