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Human Behavior and the Social Environment: Individuals and Families

Examine how environment affects the development of human behavior.

Imagine if you had been born into a different family in a different country and into a different socio-economic level than you were. Now consider how each of those factors would have affected you and formed your psyche and, ultimately, your behaviors. In 6332 Human Behavior and the Social Environment: Individuals and Families, you will examine the influence of place and circumstance on a person’s values and actions.

Course Description

In SOWK 6332, you will examine human development across the lifespan, from conception to death, using theories and perspectives to assess various problems and strengths from different lenses. You will understand the importance of people’s involvement with multiple social environment systems (communities and organizations), and the significance of these systems in influencing behavior. You will also review various concepts for understanding human behavior, including:

  • Human diversity
  • Cultural competency
  • Oppression
  • Populations at risk
  • Empowerment
  • The strengths perspective
  • Resiliency
  • Human rights
  • Critical thinking about ethical issues

Along with genetics and environment, brain development plays a major role in behavior, both during pregnancy and in infancy. You will focus on the functions of parts of the brain, as well as the connection between Attachment Theory and infant brain development and functioning. You will also gain insight into the how the brain is wired to operate and how stress impacts the brain.

As you look at infancy and childhood, you will build your understanding of psychological conceptual frameworks concerning personality development, including psychodynamic, behavioral, phenomenological and feminist theories. You will consider gender, gender identity and sexual orientation as you examine behavior issues in adolescence.

You will examine some of the differences between men and women, including abilities and communication styles, and the impact of sexism on both men and women. You will also study the issues of economic inequality, sexual harassment, sexist language, rape and sexual assault, domestic abuse and the empowerment of women.

After you study the contributions of physical development, health status and other factors on health during young adulthood, you will consider physical changes in middle adulthood, including those affecting appearance, physical strength and intellectual functioning. Finally, you will recognize how earlier decisions and environment affect physical and psychological health in later years as you examine contemporary theories related to older adults and the developmental tasks that they need to navigate.

Sample Learning Exercise

Explain in detail why the “nature vs. nurture” argument regarding genetics, human behavior and development is too simplistic and reductionist to reflect current knowledge.

Assignment Example

Work within a small group to critically review an article and explain how it helps guide professional social work thinking about human behavior in the social environment.

Course Topics

Throughout each week of the course, you will focus on a core topic or theme. Sample topics are listed below and are subject to change based on the instructor.

  • Theories, Perspectives, and Genetics
  • The Developing Brain and Behavior
  • Stress, Hormones, Pregnancy and Birth
  • Infancy and Childhood
  • Self-Care and Catch-Up
  • Adolescence, Identity Formation and Sexual Orientation
  • Young and Middle Adults
  • Later Adulthood

Learning Outcomes

Through SOWK 6332, you will gain a better understanding of topics specific to professional social work identity, values and ethics, diversity, human rights, social and economic justice, and cultural competence with emphasis on Hispanic families and children.

  • Recognize the difference between microsystems and macro systems.
  • Understand the basic principles of individuals’ and families’ lifespan development.
  • Recognize culture, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other factors as they apply to the behavior of individuals and families.
  • Analyze theoretical implications for social work practice with individuals and families from a social systems and ecological perspective.
  • Evaluate biopsychosocial theories and their impact on human behavior in social environments including those that are oppressive.
  • Propose a theoretical approach to understanding human behavior (ecosystems theory) that incorporates concepts from systems theories and the ecological perspective.
  • Identify the risks and opportunities associated with biopsychosocial contexts from a social work values perspective, integrating culture, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, disability and other factors.
  • Identify important concepts for understanding human behavior, including human diversity, cultural competency, oppression, populations-at-risk, empowerment, the strengths perspective, resiliency, human rights, and critical thinking about ethical issues.

Learn More About Helping Others

In SOWK 6332, you will develop a more culturally sensitive understanding of human development and behavior. To learn more about this course or any other course in the online Master of Social Work from Our Lady of the Lake University, call 855-275-1082 to speak with an admissions advisor right away, or you can request more information.

The content presented on this page is representative information for example purposes and is subject to change as course and student needs change over time.

Programs that include this course