Session: Diversity and Its Challenges: A Case for Balancing Culture-Specific and Universal Dimensions in Social Work Research (Society for Social Work and Research 20th Annual Conference - Grand Challenges for Social Work: Setting a Research Agenda for the Future)

148 Diversity and Its Challenges: A Case for Balancing Culture-Specific and Universal Dimensions in Social Work Research

Friday, January 15, 2016: 5:15 PM-6:45 PM
Ballroom Level-Renaissance Ballroom West Salon A (Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel)
Cluster: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration
Symposium Organizer:
Carolina Hausmann-Stabile, PhD, Rutgers University
Today, unprecedented numbers of people are relocating across the world and more than ever, social workers in the U.S. find themselves serving clients of diverse cultural backgrounds.  This situation calls for social work research that can guide practice in an increasingly culturally diverse U.S.  The focus of social work research is generalizability. In their pursuit of generalizable findings, researchers in our field have struggled with how to incorporate the population’s increasing cultural diversity in their study designs and often end up ignoring it.  This has lead many practitioners to question the relevance and applicability of findings that have been developed with little consideration to their client’s cultural context. Although the tension between universalism and cultural relativism is not unique to social work, we posit that our field can address it through research that captures and distinguishes universal and cultural-specific dimensions. The symposium will present three examples of federally-funded research that successfully addressed-and solved- this tension. The first project explores the role played by language in the acculturation process of diverse youth of immigrant backgrounds in the US. Findings from this study capture (1) the simultaneous and distinct involvement in the culture of origin and the host culture as youth acculturate, (2) the unique strategies employed by sub-groups of immigrant youth in their acculturation. The second project studies the role of familismo, a Latino-specific cultural value, and of authoritative parenting, a universal dimension, in the functioning of Latino families of young children. Findings from this research provide a nuanced description of the role of cultural values and family dynamics on the development of Dominican and Mexican children. The last example addresses the family and cultural contexts within which Latina teens’ suicidal actions are situated. Using an interactionist definition of culture, the third project highlights differences between acculturative conflict as: 1) a normal process of development; and 2) an issue of psychological distress. Presenters will share the conceptual tools that allowed them to understand what cultural-specific constructs and which universal dimensions mattered for their research questions. The presenters will highlight methodologies that strike a balance between the need for generalizable findings and the goal of developing culturally-sensitive research. The future relevance of our research work depends on social workers ability to address culturally-specific and universal dimensions.
* noted as presenting author
Language and Acculturation: Bilingualism Among Youth of Immigrant Backgrounds
Carolina Hausmann-Stabile, PhD, Rutgers University; Peter Guarnaccia, PhD, Rutgers University
Familismo in Mexican and Dominican-Origin Families: When Is It Protective?
Esther Calzada, PhD, University of Texas at Austin
The Interplay Between Family Dynamics, Culture, and Attempted Suicide Among Latina Teens
Lauren E. Gulbas, PhD, University of Texas at Austin; Luis H. Zayas, PhD, University of Texas at Austin
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