Men Mostly 'Forgotten' in Research; Professor Says Bias Blinds Social Workers

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 8, 2003 | Go to article overview

Men Mostly 'Forgotten' in Research; Professor Says Bias Blinds Social Workers


Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Social work literature is biased against heterosexual males, leading to "unfair and untrue" stereotypes about men and hampering social workers' ability to counsel men, an Alabama professor has concluded after reviewing articles in two social work journals from the last decade.

Out of hundreds of articles, book reviews and published ads, only "a fraction - about 25" - were about men, Jordan I. Kosberg wrote in an article titled "Heterosexual Males: A Group Forgotten by the Profession of Social Work."

Of the studies Mr. Kosberg found about men, half were about homosexuals and most of the rest were about men categorized as abusers, absent fathers, AIDS victims, prisoners or homeless.

"Most males are not delinquent, neglectful, abusers, AIDS victims or gay," Mr. Kosberg wrote. Yet in the last 10 years, "just a handful of studies at best" addressed "normative issues" of males.

This creates an "unfair and untrue" stereotype of heterosexual males, Mr. Kosberg concluded. It also handicaps social workers, leaving them ill-prepared to handle the needs of men related to adolescence, fatherhood, employment, marriage, divorce and aging.

The profession of social work should strive for genuine sex equity and focus on males "no more, but certainly no less," than females, Mr. Kosberg wrote in his article, which appeared in the September issue of the Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare. Mr. Kosberg teaches at the University of Alabama School of Social Work and heads its doctorate program.

The two journals Mr. Kosberg reviewed for his study were the Journal of Social Work Education, published by the Council on Social Work Education, and Social Work, published by the National Association of Social Workers.

Elizabeth J. Clark, executive director of NASW, said Mr. Kosberg's study was "intriguing" but not convincing.

Only general, "impressionistic" statistics were in the study - nothing scholarly, she said.

Moreover, it was a curious choice to include published ads as part of the study, she said, because Social Work [the journal] merely publishes paid advertisements.

As for Mr. Kosberg's main premises - that there aren't enough studies about men's needs, the few articles about men are creating a bias against them and uninformed social workers can't deal with men's issues - Ms. Clark disputes them all.

"I think there's a lot [of studies] out there" about men, she said.

Historically, she explained, "men controlled the academic side" of social work - including research - while women did the front-line counseling. This led to an abundance of male-focused studies that only recently have been matched with female-focused studies. …

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