Social Work Diagnosis in Contemporary Practice

Social Work Diagnosis in Contemporary Practice

Social Work Diagnosis in Contemporary Practice

Social Work Diagnosis in Contemporary Practice


The unifying theme of this broad-reaching volume is that responsible, ethical, and effective social work practice rests on the diagnostic skills of the practitioner. Social work diagnosis refers to the conscious formulation of an ongoing set of decisions about the client and his or hersituation, which serve as the basis for intervention-decisions for which the practitioner must be prepared to take responsibility. Diagnostic skill development is an ongoing process principally enhanced by a continuous commitment to remain at the cutting edge of the profession's body of knowledge,but one of the challenges for today's practitioner is keeping abreast of the rapidly expanding body of knowledge contained in some 200 important social work periodicals in circulation. Francis J. Turner, a preeminent clinical scholar, brings together in one volume some of the best work publishedsince 2000, each reflecting new insights into understanding psychosocial situations and innovative methods of applying knowledge and skills in an increasingly effective manner. Each of the 78 articles in this volume highlights some of the critical dimensions of contemporary social work practice,guiding clinicians to address four key aspects in order to craft an accurate diagnosis. The first section presents articles covering the developmental spectrum, each of which fully explains various ages and stages of development. The second section focuses on a range of specific situations,helping practitioners and students enrich their understanding of different types of problems they meet in contemporary practice, whether they are based in mental illness, psychosocial issues, or physical ailments. The third section addresses the crucial component of diversity, demonstrating thecomplexity and critical importance of truly understanding clients and their lives. The last section of the book discusses innovative approaches to practice, selected to offer practitioners easy access to the latest interventions for a host of contemporary challenges facing clients and theirtherapists. Broad in scope and tightly focused on the goal of providing the most up-to-date information necessary for accuracy in the diagnostic process, this volume represents some of the best research available to today's social workers.


Substantial numbers of low birth weight (LBW) children are being diagnosed with moderate to severe emotional and behavior problems,1–3 which in turn are forecasting later mental disorders.4–7 But there are conflicting views regarding the source of these problems, fueled by the traditional nature versus nurture controversy. Many clinicians are convinced that the biological limitations posed by low birth weight have a strong negative impact on early interactive capacity as well as overall intellectual and social competence during the first year of life. All of these infant characteristics are thought to influence the development of behavioral and emotional problems for the child. Other clinicians speak to the importance of the child's environment as a central foundation for the LBW child's later emotional and behavioral well-being. However, little research exists to substantiate either perspective. A few studies have addressed risk factors for mental health problems of LBW children but much of what is hypothesized has been borrowed from studies of infants who were born with normative weight. The purpose of this study was to build upon extant literature regarding potentially important risk factors and to determine their contributions to the emotional and behavioral problems of LBW children at age 2.

Infant Characteristics

Evidence does suggest that certain characteristics of the infant may be related to a greater likelihood of emotional-behavioral problems. The degree of perinatal morbidity is one important factor. The cumulative effect of many neonatal medical problems appears to play a role. In particular, extremely immature infants born after only 23–26 weeks gestation have a higher incidence of behavioral disorders that are associated with neurological abnormalities and other medical problems.10–12 Infants with more medical problems also have longer hospitalizations, which may compromise their later behavior.

Smaller birth weight itself has been linked to problem development.13–15 There are also data pointing to the infant's early interactive capacity as a predictor of later problems. An infant's capacity for responsiveness to parents seems particularly important because it contributes to parent attitudes and interactions that may affect infants' perceptions of self and others as they mature.

An infant's emerging social skills have also been implicated in later mental health problems. They have been associated with conduct disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as both aggression and withdrawal in peer relationships. Communication difficulties and trouble socializing have been identified as social antecedents of special importance to the development of emotional and behavioral disorders. Last, cognitive ability (especially early language competence) has been related to behavioral outcomes for children, including those of low birth weight.23–27

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