Change in the profession of social work: Analysis of four key events
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This study examines the process by which the profession of social work changes over time. Literature dealing with the sociology of professions was reviewed to provide a conceptual framework for understanding social work as a profession and change in professions. A four-celled matrix was developed to aid in conceptualizing events to be analyzed, as follows: external to profession, proactive stance; internal, proactive; external, reactive; internal, reactive. Four "key events" which occurred over the course of twentieth century social work were chosen for historical analysis based on feedback from a panel of experts. These four events provided fulcrums for a historical study of processes of change in the profession of social work.;The events were as follows: the establishment of the U.S. Children's Bureau in 1912 (external, proactive), the founding of the American Association of Social Workers in 1921 (internal, proactive), the passage of the Social Security Act of 1935 (external, reactive), and the legitimation of the baccalaureate social worker in 1969-70 (internal, reactive). Using a wide variety of historical sources, the events were analyzed separately and in comparison to each other.;All four events were validated by the data as being significant and appropriately categorized in the matrix. In each instance, the profession was characterized by the presence of many co-existing segments. However, in each event, one particular segment proved highly influential. Likewise, each event was dominated by a small group of leaders. Each event appeared to generate a number of changes in the profession. In general, internal events were associated with changes to the definition of "social worker" while external events were associated with changes in the scope of the social work domain. Reactive situations were characterized by the existence of two antagonistic segments while proactive situations were dominated by a strong segment without significant opposition. All of the events reflected contemporary societal concerns. A pattern for change and additional findings are described. Implications for social work and possibilities for further research are discussed.