Friday, December 16, 2011

Attitudes and Values

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For this assignment, I shall be looking at how attitudes and values are formed, how they are reinforced and how they are used with regard to oppressive behaviour to three social groups, Race, Sexual Orientation and Disability. I will also use y role as a social worker to explain how in my work I would use anti-oppressive practices and the importance of such work. I will be looking at various theories and my own life experiences for this work.


In order to get an understanding I will define attitudes. Attitudes is a habitual way of responding to or thinking about people, groups and objects in a generally favourable or unfavourable manner (Pierson et al 00). Attitudes influence both peoples behaviour and the way they interact with the world around them. They are mental states that carry ready explanations for social events and assist in the management of anxiety. Attitudes help an individual make a rapid assessment on social events based on earlier experiences. Stored in memory they influence behaviour when you are in a particular situation.


A person from peer group influences, direct experience, early learning (primary socialisation), membership of social groups, and the media and social interaction develop attitudes. Once an attitude is taken on via this route, attitudes interact with each other and with beliefs that are already part of a persons mental process. Attitudes can be seen to be more held when there are related experiences.


People hold attitudes about such things as freedom, equality and the challenge of oppression. But unfortunately there are people that hold attitudes about certain social groups as well, which are negative attitudes. These attitudes can link a person to a particular social group and so can carry rewards or indeed punishment for an individual in terms of membership or expulsion from a social group.


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A value on the other hand is a belief that is good, desirable and determines what is good, something that is worth striving for. Values are the consistent bases of which we underpin our attitudes. They are connected with morality and desirability. We judge other people by their moral standards and their behaviour and so we use that as a base to have a specific attitude towards them. So attitudes and values are intertwined as values underlie our attitudes towards others (Fishbein at al 175).


There are a few theories that explain the development of our own attitudes and values. Thompson (1) developed a PCS model. The P level is our thoughts, feelings, actions and attitudes although an individual can also be shaped by the culture we live in. The C level is showing the interests and influence of society as reflected in the values and norms we receive during socialisation. Finally the S level is basically the structure of society we live in. Even though we have individual thoughts and attitudes, the people we share our lives with shape them and they in turn are shaped by the norms and values passed to them by society.


Banduras (17) theory on Social Learning is an idea that when we observe others around us we are unconsciously learning from them. We use what we learn when the correct situation turns up and then we show what we have learnt. This form of imitation is important as we are picking up patterns of social action and behaviour.


Bowlbys Attachment theory (17) is important as if a child does not have the bonding it should have especially to the mother then it will affect their behaviour, outlook and attitudes in future.


Social identity can also develop our attitudes and values. This is an understanding of which we are as well as understanding whom other people is (Boon 18). When we interact socially, no matter what age, a part of our development grow. We value a type of group, join it and so values and attitudes are formed.


If our attitudes and values are formed, how are they developed further and reinforced? I will look at the media as a way of reinforcing our attitudes and values. The media takes form in a number of ways. Whether it is television, what we read, the radio or the Internet we cannot miss it. The medias influence in society is immense whether it is promoting or criticising or sensationalising a product, a social group or an entire race of people.


I have never met an immigrant living in a bedsit, claiming benefits so I cannot make a personal judgement. But I feel I have to because all I hear is that they are coming here, living off the tax I pay and living more comfortably than us Brits. So the average person on the street will feel aggrieved by this. Unfortunately this has risen the popularity of the British National Party. Ironically those who arrived from the Commonwealth had older relatives that fought alongside us in World War Two and in the conflicts since. They have also taken on the lower paid jobs that we did not want to do, and others went into self-employment. Their children do well at school and become respectable citizens. Btu the media through churning anti immigrant literature at us had made us forget about that. The power of the media to change our attitudes is very big; we can support and despise the same group of people on a daily basis due to the power of the media. We do have such space in our attitudes for those types of people whom we have never met. The media unfavourably or favourably fills them for us, before we have the actual experience of making a judgement (Clement and Spinks 14).


Values and attitudes are very important in the role of a social worker. Attitudes and the changing of attitudes are the key aspects of social work. They can be the bases of a problem, a view that is negative, yet unjustified. If I am dealing with someone who is oppressive to others my role would be to see what attitude or the basis of the attitude is. I would then see how willing the person is to change such views or if they could change them at all.


When dealing with a service user we do not make judgements that may affect our attitudes against them. We work in an anti oppressive way. If we are dealing with someone who is black or disabled than we have to work against the oppressive values the society has placed onto them. This internalised oppression (Trevithick 00), makes those inferior, thus the oppressors do not need to maintain their attitudes. Getting people to define and overcome such oppression and understanding it can be used to empower service users, by using anti-oppressive practices. I give those affected a chance of raising themselves above the head of this internalised oppression. But only if my values, beliefs and attitudes are positive too.


I would like to reflect on three areas of oppression and my attitudes towards them. Firstly I would like to start with Race.


I was brought up on a predominantly white working class estate. I went to a predominantly white school. Apart from two predominantly Asian areas in the town centre, but apart from the open market, I never had any contact with them.


But despite this, I always heard racist calling at school, which was aimed at the few Asian pupils that attended. They were called Paki, Wog and a host of other obscenities relating to corner shops and the ethnic clothing that they wore. As a white boy I was offended even at that age and never took part in this behaviour. Even today I still refuse to say these sorts of things out of respect, and my moral principles. Saying that. My mother was racist, but my father was liberal and taught me to respect other people. I took my fathers side in my attitudes, but unfortunately it seems that my brother has slightly took the thoughts of my mother and even today I have to barrack him when he comes out with these ridiculous things only ignorant people say. Unfortunately, some people seem to think that everyone is a Johnny Foreigner even though we forget that we not purely a white homogenous society, but a multi ethnic one with all the benefits that it brings.


I got to understand more about this in my study of race and that when I did my dissertation on Race and Housing is when I came across institutionalised racism. Even the rules are prejudiced. So it seemed that this oppression was here to stay unless some big overall revamp was made legislatively.


I have also been socialising with a couple of Asians lately, and have learned much about their culture, values and beliefs. They seem to value the things that I would take for granted, such as education, marriage, work ethic and religion. If other people had bothered to take the time to learn about other cultures then they would also have a better attitude to them as well.


If, as a social worker I was dealing with someone who felt oppressed because of his or her race. I would have to be aware of their cultural values and needs. I would also have to consider my own values as well, even if they clashed. But that would be more of a challenge than a hindrance. But the models that I would be working on are based on Western values, and so need to be adapted to include those values from other ethnic groups than my own. (Corey 10). So it is just not a case of being Anti - Racist. More of being ethnically sensitive (Thompson 16).


I have always had an interest in disability since I am a registered disabled on the account of my lack of hearing. I never really bothered about it until I got my first hearing aid. Whereas, before I was able to hide my disability as I was very good at lip reading. I was now wearing some tangible symbol of my disability. However, I still saw myself as able bodied as I could still play sport and do the other things the other able bodied could do. I suppose looking back, ashamedly, I just thought disabled meant being in a wheelchair. They couldnt go out because there was no way they could get in anywhere, as there was no ramps. There was also a lack of other facilities so they were socially oppressed and so marginalised. Social attitudes were narrow-minded. They were always seen to be patronising to the disabled. They were always reminded of the things that they couldnt do, people always focused on the things they couldnt do. But the disabled were never looked in a positive way, in terms of what they could do, what they could achieve, and so they were never shown that direction. If they could be given that chance then people wouldnt see them as being dependent either. My attitudes changed as I got older and realised was disability was. I was disabled, and my former ignorance was replaced by a much more knowledgeable, mature outlook. When I saw the disabled athletes at the Olympics, I saw what was achievable, and they were doing it, not mentioning their disability, but rather their achievements. Put me to shame that did. Watched it every night after that…..


So as a social worker, I would try to empower someone who was disabled. But initially I would have to recognise the roots of the disability so I would avoid negative stereotypes that would hinder any interaction with them. This would also avoid reinforcing the disadvantages relating to disability, and challenge such oppression as well.


In order to communicate better, the information they would receive would be in several formats, such as Braille, Large Print and AudioCassette.


Thirdly, my attitudes towards people with a different sexual orientation to myself is pretty tolerant. At school I heard the words puff and queer but at that age I suppose I didnt think about it. The first time I came into contact with those of a different orientation was at college. But being in their company never bothered me, they were mates and that was it. Again at work and at University I made other friends who were either gay, bi-sexual or lesbian. But they were in my circle of friends. I respected their personal life and they respected mine. Although I knew one or two that were too eager to be open about it. But I had an open mind to them as they were friends and I treat them as such.


There were occasions they were called puff….blah blah….But I was offended, and took it as personal. Name calling at that age. I was eight when I heard those names. But they got on with it. A sort of occupational hazard, so to speak.


As a social worker, it is important to treat people on a non-judgmental basis approach. Certainly as regard to their sexual orientation. There is a lot of prejudice against them. They cant get married to same sex partners, they are seen as unnatural, and they arent too popular with the church either. These views can stigmatise them, and so they will be oppressed. We have to be open minded about them, so we can avoid creating a stereotype and creating barriers. (Thompson 16).


Unfortunately, my attitudes havent really changed that much. But I think this is because of the way I was taught to respect people, respect their opinions and respect their property by my father. I have made numerous friends and colleagues over the years, and through this I have always treat them the same way. I suppose it is these values that are very difficult to change.


But, my knowledge has increased. I learned more about Indian culture in the last six months than I ever learned during the previous thirty years in discussions of a group nature, or chilling out down the pub. Because my understanding has improved, I can challenge oppression in a more knowledgeable way.


I have also enjoyed listening to other people life experiences and this has improved my self-awareness, which according to Thompson (16) is very important when working with people.


I see my self as non-oppressive, non-aggressive and non-discriminative towards other people, but that could be down to my fathers teachings, my personality or even my disability, because I would hate to feel oppressed because of it.


After looking at various theories and my own life experiences in regarding oppression in society I have shown how these attitudes are made and how they are reinforced. Also I have shown how my work as a social worker in regard to these attitudes is very important in helping those service users whom are the victims of such oppression.


Bibliography


Thompson, N Anti-Discriminatory Practice (001)


Third Edition


Palgrave


Basingstoke


Fishbein, M Attitude, Intention and Behaviour


Ajzen, I An Introduction to Theory and Research (175)


Massachusetts


Addison - Wesley


Hayes, N Principles of Social Psychology (1)


Lawrence Erlbaum Associates


Hove


Ajzen, I Understanding Attitudes and Predicting Behaviour (1)


Fishbein, M Hemel Hempstead Prentice Hall


Corey, G Theory and Practice of Group counselling (10)


Brooks / Cole


Pierson, J Social Work Dictionary (00)


Thomas, M HarperCollins


Glasgow


Trevithick, P Social Work Skills (00)


Open University Press


Buckingham


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