Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Counselors' Social Class and Socioeconomic Status Understanding and Awareness

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Counselors' Social Class and Socioeconomic Status Understanding and Awareness

Article excerpt

Social class indicators are ubiquitous in U.S. culture: Where people live, what they eat, how they speak, what clothes they wear (Payne, 2005), and how people raise their children (Gillies, 2006; Lareau, 2011) can all point to social class values and worldviews. Popular culture, especially television, has defined what different social class groups are like. The television show The Beverly Hillbillies (Simon & Ransohoff, 1962) depicted what happens when people who are poor gain entry into the upper social class. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Jones, 1990) showed how people of color in the upper social class live. In 1988, Carsey and Werner normalized working-class life with Roseanne. Later, with the advent of reality television, people in the United States became particularly privy to acute aspects of people's social class experiences, which most often represented dichotomies of class experiences (e.g., The Real Housewives of Orange County [Dunlop, 2006], Welcome to Myrtle Manor [Poster & Gips, 2013]).

Whether or not people acknowledge it consciously, media images influence how people identify and understand social class groups and how people believe social class and socioeconomic status (SES) function. Often, these images are static, one-dimensional portrayals of social class groups that can instill stereotypes and bias. Although issues and images related to social class and SES are visible, in the United States, there is an overall reluctance to acknowledge that social class affects people's worldviews, values, and beliefs (Staton, Evans, & Lucey, 2012; West-Olatunji & Gibson, 2012). Accordingly, many people are hesitant or unwilling to talk about how social class affects people's lives because they are reluctant to recognize any class group as "valid" outside of the middle class. Because of this reluctance, counselors and clients alike may possess limited social class and SES understanding and awareness. This may affect counselors' ability to acknowledge and validate clients' social class and SES realities. The purpose of this article is to describe nine licensed professional counselors' (LPC's) awareness and understanding of social class and SES within the context of qualitative interviews. Accordingly, research findings and implications for counseling and future research are offered.

Literature Review

When discussing literature pertinent to social class and SES, first it is important to define relevant terms. Scholars have acknowledged that social class is difficult to define (Aronowitz, 2003; Liu, Soleck, Hopps, Dunston, & Pickett, 2004), and therefore it is challenging to conduct research and develop guidelines for counseling practices that are conscious of social class. Indeed, definitions of social class range from equivocation with SES to a more complex construct that includes a multidimensional expression of culture, including values, family meanings, attitudes, beliefs, practices, and language (Liu, Soleck, et ah, 2004). The latter description is emerging as a more comprehensive approach to understanding social class as a cultural construct. Because of the construct's complexity, researchers continue to investigate, explore, clarify, and explain social class and its implications for counseling.

Socioeconomic status is an objective, ranked system that designates individuals' economic value based on their income, education, and occupation (Brown, Fukunaga, Umemoto, & Wicker, 1996; Muntaner, Eaton, & Diala, 2000). SES is quantified easily, and it has the capacity to shift rapidly if individuals' income, education, or occupation changes. Social class is a more subjective, yet often ranked, term that integrates individuals' SES factors with the totality of attitudes, beliefs, consciousness, values, behaviors, and interactions that affect their personal and group worldviews based on their social location, resources, and experiences with their social class affiliations (Kraus, Piff, Mendoza-Denton, Rheinschmidt, & Keltner, 2012; Liu, Ali, et al. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.