Bridging Disciplinary Boundaries (January 11 - 14, 2007)

Sunday, January 14, 2007: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Marina Room (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
A Transcultural Perspective on Social Services Research: Understanding the Experience of Diverse Groups across the Life Span
Organizer:Sadhna Diwan, PhD, San Jose State University
Discussant:E. Michael Gorman, PhD, San Jose State University
Mental Health Services Utilization and Outcomes for Children of Color in the Child Welfare System
Alice M. Hines, PhD, Peter Lee
Impact of the Community Environment on the Acculturation and Adaptation of Immigrant Adolescents
Meekyung Han, PhD
Influence of Social Class on Service Awareness and Attitudes Towards Community Services among Caregivers of Dementia Patients
Sadhna Diwan, PhD
Barriers to Using Public Transit among Diverse Older Adults: Implications for Social Work
Michael Peck, PhD, Daniel Hess
Abstract Text:
In an increasingly multicultural society, a transcultural perspective offers a useful framework for 1) researching the unique and common needs and resources of individuals from diverse backgrounds, and 2) considering the implications of this research for designing and implementing social service delivery systems. A transcultural perspective allows us to understand similarities and differences in concepts, beliefs, and experiences among different cultural groups to determine those issues that are universal and transcend cultural boundaries as compared to issues that may be specific to a culture or group (Brink, 1999).

This symposium presents four papers that will examine the relationship between social services and culture (as defined by ethnicity), and social location (as defined by age, social class, ethnic identity, and neighborhood context). Specifically the papers address the impact of diversity on the need, use, and attitudes towards social services among different groups across the life span.

The first paper examines differences in system-related outcomes for an ethnically diverse sample of children receiving mental health services in the child welfare system (CWS). The study finds that Asian/Pacific Islanders were most likely to be reunified with their families following treatment, followed by Latinos, African Americans and Whites. Controlling for other factors, younger children and those with a shorter duration in the CWS were more likely to complete treatment and to have an increased likelihood of reunification following treatment.

Paper 2 examines the impact of the community context as measured by ethnic density, poverty, and quality of school environments on the adaptation (acculturation and self-esteem) of immigrant adolescents. The study finds that immigrant youth living in an ethnically similar community have stronger ethnic identity, lower English proficiency, live in poorer neighborhoods with less access to resources, and score lower on school achievement and self-esteem.

Paper 3 qualitatively examines the relationship between social class (education and income) and awareness of and attitudes towards the use of community services among a diverse group of middle-aged and older family caregivers of persons with dementia. Caregivers with higher education tended to tap a wider social network for information about services and used private pay services more flexibly. Both groups reported being influenced by their social network to use community services.

Paper 4 examines the patterns of use of fixed route public transit and the perceived barriers to such transportation services among older persons residing in two metropolitan areas. Quantitative findings indicate that nonwhite elders are more likely to ride public transit multiple times during a week than white elders. Qualitative and quantitative findings indicate some reluctance to rely on public transit. Barriers to public transit use include costs, physical ability, perceptions of safety, and weather-related barriers.

All papers discuss implications for practice and for adapting social services to address issues that are culture or group-specific as well as those that are transcultural or universal, and point to areas of further research in social services.


Brink, P.J. (1999). Transcultural versus cross-cultural. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 10(1), 7.

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