From the Diversity and Discrimination section of the ASWB exam content outline, let's look at this topic: The effects of discrimination and stereotypes on behaviors, attitudes, and identity. We'll examine the topic and then take a look at how it may appear on the social work licensing exam.

The Effects

Discrimination and stereotypes have profound psychological and emotional effects on individuals who experience them, including stress, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. These negative experiences can lead to mental health problems and diminish overall well-being. All of this influences behaviors, attitudes, and sense of identity in various ways:

  • Behaviors:

    • Avoidance: Individuals may avoid certain places, activities, or social interactions where they anticipate experiencing discrimination or stereotypes. This avoidance behavior can limit opportunities for social engagement and personal growth.
    • Self-Defense Mechanisms: In response to discrimination, individuals may engage in self-defense mechanisms such as aggression or withdrawal. This can manifest as confrontational behavior towards perceived threats or as social withdrawal to protect oneself from further harm.
    • Internalization of Stereotypes: Individuals who experience discrimination may internalize negative stereotypes about themselves or their social group. This internalization can lead to self-limiting behaviors and hinder personal development and achievement.
  • Attitudes:

    • Mistrust and Suspicion: Experiencing discrimination can foster mistrust and suspicion towards others, particularly those from dominant or privileged groups. This can create barriers to building trusting relationships and collaborating with others.
    • Negative Self-Perception: Discrimination and stereotypes can shape individuals' self-perception and self-esteem. Internalizing negative stereotypes may lead to feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, or self-doubt.
    • Stereotype Threat: Individuals who belong to stigmatized groups may experience stereotype threat, where the fear of confirming negative stereotypes about their group negatively affects their performance. This can lead to underachievement and reduced self-confidence.
  • Identity:

    • Identity Crisis: Discrimination and stereotypes can trigger an identity crisis as individuals grapple with conflicting perceptions of themselves and their social group. This can lead to feelings of confusion, alienation, or disconnection from one's cultural or social identity.
    • Internalized Stigma: Individuals who experience discrimination may internalize stigma associated with their identity, leading to feelings of shame, self-blame, or self-hatred. This internalized stigma can impact various aspects of life, including relationships, career aspirations, and mental health.
    • Cultural Identity Formation: Discrimination can influence the formation of cultural identity, as individuals navigate their sense of belonging and acceptance within their cultural or social group. Discrimination may prompt individuals to assert their cultural identity as a source of resilience and pride or to distance themselves from their cultural heritage to avoid further stigma.

Discrimination and stereotypes also have pervasive and harmful effects on society, impacting individuals, communities, and institutions in various ways:

  • Social Division and Conflict: Discrimination and stereotypes contribute to social division and conflict by creating barriers between different groups based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or other characteristics. These divisions can lead to tensions, animosity, and even violence between groups.

  • Inequality and Injustice: Discrimination perpetuates inequality and injustice by limiting access to opportunities, resources, and services for marginalized and stigmatized groups. This can result in disparities in education, employment, healthcare, housing, and other areas, exacerbating social and economic inequalities.

  • Undermining Social Cohesion: Discrimination erodes social cohesion by undermining trust, solidarity, and mutual respect within society. It fosters a climate of suspicion, resentment, and alienation among individuals and groups, making it difficult to build inclusive and cohesive communities.

  • Undermining Human Rights: Discrimination violates fundamental human rights, including the rights to equality, dignity, and non-discrimination. It denies individuals the opportunity to fully participate in society and enjoy their rights and freedoms without discrimination based on irrelevant characteristics.

  • Limiting Economic Growth and Innovation: Discrimination hinders economic growth and innovation by excluding talented individuals from participating in the workforce and contributing to the economy. It deprives societies of the diverse perspectives, skills, and talents needed to drive innovation and prosperity.

  • Reinforcing Stereotypes and Prejudices: Discrimination perpetuates stereotypes and prejudices by reinforcing negative beliefs and attitudes about certain groups. This creates a cycle of discrimination where individuals are judged based on stereotypes rather than their individual qualities and abilities.

  • Impeding Social Progress: Discrimination impedes social progress by hindering efforts to achieve equality, justice, and human rights for all members of society. It undermines initiatives aimed at promoting diversity, inclusion, and social cohesion, making it harder to address pressing social challenges.

  • Undermining Trust in Institutions: Discrimination erodes trust in institutions, including government agencies, law enforcement, educational institutions, and healthcare systems. When individuals perceive that these institutions are biased or unfair, it can lead to distrust, cynicism, and disengagement from civic life.

  • Perpetuating Inter-generational Trauma: Discrimination can perpetuate inter-generational trauma by passing down experiences of marginalization, oppression, and injustice from one generation to the next. This can create a cycle of disadvantage and hardship that persists over time.

The Response

The NASW Code of Ethics is clear about social workers' role here.

4.02 Discrimination Social workers should not practice, condone, facilitate, or collaborate with any form of discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical ability.
1.05 Cultural Competence (b) Social workers should demonstrate knowledge that guides practice with clients of various cultures and be able to demonstrate skills in the provision of culturally informed services that empower marginalized individuals and groups. Social workers must take action against oppression, racism, discrimination, and inequities, and acknowledge personal privilege. [Emphasis added.]

What's taking action look like? Social workers are at the forefront of efforts to address and combat discrimination in various settings. Here are several ways we take action against discrimination:

  • Counseling and Support: Social workers offer counseling, support, and empowerment services to people who've experienced discrimination or prejudice. They provide a safe and nonjudgmental space for clients to process their experiences, explore coping strategies, and develop resilience.
  • Advocacy: Social workers advocate for policies, laws, and practices that promote equality, justice, and nondiscrimination. They may engage in legislative advocacy, participate in grassroots organizing efforts, and collaborate with community organizations to push for systemic change.

  • Education and Training: Social workers provide education and training to individuals, groups, organizations, and communities on issues related to discrimination, prejudice, and privilege. They facilitate workshops, seminars, and training sessions to raise awareness, challenge biases, and promote cultural competence.

  • Community Organizing: Social workers engage in community organizing efforts to mobilize affected communities and allies in the fight against discrimination. They facilitate community forums, town hall meetings, and advocacy campaigns to raise awareness, build solidarity, and create networks of support.

  • Policy Analysis and Development: Social workers conduct research, policy analysis, and program evaluation to assess the impact of discriminatory policies and practices. They use evidence-based approaches to develop and implement policies and programs that promote equity, diversity, and inclusion.

  • Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Social workers collaborate with other professionals, including lawyers, educators, healthcare providers, and policymakers, to address discrimination comprehensively. They work across disciplines to identify root causes of discrimination, develop holistic interventions, and advocate for multidimensional solutions.

  • Crisis Intervention: Social workers provide crisis intervention services to individuals and communities affected by hate crimes, bias incidents, and other forms of discrimination. They offer immediate support, advocacy, and resources to help survivors cope with trauma, access services, and navigate the legal system.

  • Research and Evaluation: Social workers conduct research and evaluation studies to better understand the causes and consequences of discrimination and to identify effective interventions. They contribute to the evidence base on discrimination-related issues and use research findings to inform practice, policy, and advocacy efforts.

  • Cultural Competence and Sensitivity Training: Social workers promote cultural competence and sensitivity within their own profession and among other professionals. They integrate cultural humility, intersectionality, and social justice principles into their practice, supervision, and training programs to ensure culturally responsive services and inclusive environments.

  • Self-Reflection and Personal Growth: Social workers engage in ongoing self-reflection, self-awareness, and personal growth to examine their own biases, privileges, and assumptions. They commit to lifelong learning and professional development to enhance their capacity to address discrimination effectively and ethically.

On the Exam

On the licensing exam, questions on this topic may look something like this:

  • A social worker is collaborating with community organizations to address discrimination against immigrants in a local neighborhood. Which of the following strategies is the social worker most likely to employ in this situation?
  • A social worker is advocating for policy changes to address discriminatory practices in the criminal justice system. Which of the following actions is the social worker most likely to take to advance this advocacy effort?
  • A social worker is conducting cultural competence training for staff at a mental health clinic. Which of the following topics is the social worker most likely to address during the training?

Are you ready for exam questions on this topic and all the others? Tests your self out--and learn as you go--with Social Work Test Prep's full-length practice tests.

Get Started Now.

April 24, 2024
Categories :