Sample Social Work and Human Services Paper on Bio-Psycho-Social-Cultural Application

Bio-Psycho-Social-Cultural Application

Application of Theory

Bowen family system theory can be used to understand Beatrice Rojas current condition as well as how she has ended up in such a situation. The theory focuses on a broader view by looking at patterns of a system that is comprised of several family members. The theory significantly assists in understanding the different ways in which individuals manage similarly stressful situations. When developing this theory, Bowen concluded that individual’s personal and relationship issues are created by the exaggerated response that they develop after sensing that the family harmony and that of other groups is under threat (Cook, 2007).  In this case, Beatrice was afraid of how her parents and church would react on learning about her sexual orientation. To ensure that she did not cause any problems she decided to keep quiet about being a lesbian. Hiding her feelings significantly contributed to her initial change in behavior as she became depressed, lonely and felt misunderstood. Additionally, after learning that Beatrice had developed some negative behaviors, her family members put efforts to ensure that she conformed to the family and Christian values that they believed in. The reaction of the family members to the revelation that Beatrice was a lesbian was extremely inflated. They were intolerant towards her sexual orientation and personal feelings. Their response resulted in the elevation of the client’s personal problems.

One of the theory’s concepts, the differentiation of self-concept, provides that the different levels of maturity in relationships is related to key areas of peoples’ well-being such as the ability to deal with stress, management of social anxiety, making decisions or even marital satisfaction (Haefner, 2014). The concept is concerned with one’s ability to think individually while at the same time remaining meaningfully connected to others. It illustrates the differences in each person’s capacity to maintain a balance in their emotions and intellect and balancing their need to be attached with their need to a separate self. The theory proposes that for a person to enhance their solid self it is essential to do it inside relationships that are comprised of original families. Moving from family members who may be difficult would only heighten the issue of handling relationship upsets (Bostwick et al., 2014).  In the case of Beatrice, her relationship with family members after they learnt about her sexual orientation and change in behaviors was spoilt, to the point of rejecting her and chasing her away from home. After she moved to a group home that houses LGBTQ youths who have not been accepted by their families, she only had a smooth time for a certain period. However, she began feeling depressed since she still wanted to be with her family, making her adopt the bad behaviors she had once left behind. Therefore, lack of a good relationship and support from the client’s family as she dealt with the adversities of being a lesbian was a major problem for her.

Traditional and Alternative Paradigms

Traditional paradigms are the perspectives of the world that have the most significant influence on the environment in which people live. Alternative paradigms refer to the perspectives that lack significant influence in shaping people’s views about their environments and humans. In this case, a number of values and beliefs have been shared by the family and community in which the client lives in that are related to diversity, systems of oppression, privilege, culture and intersectionality. Traditional perspectives on sexual orientation are conditioned through the belief that the normal default occurrence should be heterosexuality. It also provides that it is possible to cure it if it fails to conform to the norm. On the other hand, the alternative perspective provides that individuals can make a choice about their sexual orientation (Saleebey, 2012). For example, the client’s family feels that her”sinful and filthy thoughts” as well as the difficulty of losing her mother have made her a lesbian. The family also believes that it can straighten her sexual orientation by taking certain measures like praying for her. Another paradigm related to intersectionality provides that there is an interconnection between race, gender, and class for individuals who face oppression along more than one dimension of inequality. Inequalities that are likely to occur in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation and class are mainly observed among minorities from different backgrounds such as gays, lesbians, women, and people in the lower working class (Miville & Ferguson, 2014).  For instance, the oppression that the Beatrice is facing, in this case, is connected to being a minority in different ways including her sexual orientation, gender, race, and class. In relation to cultural perspectives, family and individual values are influenced by norms, traditions, history, customs and institutions of a group of individuals passed on from one generation to another and result in human behaviors observed in any society (Miville, & Ferguson, 2014). For example, the client’s family Christian beliefs have affected their ability to understand that it is possible for her to be attracted to girls.

Risk and Protective Factors

Sexual orientation is one of the significant aspects of the client’s personal identity. It is essential for her to understand and express her sexual orientation to ensure she develops her identity and self-worth. Unfortunately, as an LGBT, Beatrice is exposed to various challenges, both personal and environmental that shapes the perception she has about them as well as how other people see her (Kiperman, Varjas, Meyers, & Howard, 2014). Beatrice is likely to continue facing negative experiences such as increased rates of emotional and physical bias and violence, being rejected by families and peers, lack of adequate support by institutions of learning, places of work and in communities. The experiences will increase her stress levels putting her at a risk of negative health outcomes. She will also be at a risk of attempting suicide, becoming homeless and abusing drugs. These problems may also put her at a risk of becoming more depressed, anxious and feeling isolated (Ream, & Forge, 2014). Risks such as physical, sexual and psychological abuse may also make it hard for her to express her sexual orientation in a way that is different from societal expectations. She is at a risk of victimization both in school, future employments and in the public. Thus, she may have poorer identity development than her peers whose they sexual orientation is closely aligned to the expectations of the society (Feygina, 2013).

The protective factors are concerned with the well-being of Beatrice enabling her to develop her identity with ease since she will feel secure. Protective factors include methods that help to address stigma related to LGBT, violence, discrimination, improving her strengths as an LGBT youth. Another important protective factor is encouraging support from families, providing a safe and supporting environment in schools and other settings such as workplace (Fisher, & Mustanski, 2014). Federal and local policies focusing on issues of LGBT can be developed. Advocacy programs and other institutions should start providing more attention to people like her.   Additionally, connection to caring adults, family members, and peers should be promoted to protect her from risk factors. 

Interventions and Strategies for Addressing Identified Issues

A study by Shilo, Antebi, & Mor (2015)sought to find out the individual and community factors that help in maintaining positive mental health among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Queer (LGBQ) youth. At an individual level, reduced levels of internalized homophobia and high levels of outness are related to increased levels of well-being. At the community level, the having family and friends support and being in steady relationships was associated with the well-being of LGBQ youth. The study helped in developing various interventions that can help in promoting the mental health of LGBQ youth. Firstly, application of therapeutic, public and educational interventions that can assist in lowering risk factors such as victimization and internalized homophobia and enhance the mental health of LGBQ youth. Promoting a social climate that can enable the youth to reveal their sexual orientations will also help them in maintaining their well-being.  Although family-based interventions may be challenging, more efforts should be put on promoting support from the youth’s families and eliminating familial homophobia. Establishing and giving adequate support to LGBQ community based organization whose main objective is to handle health issues among LGBQ persons and families can enable a high number of LGBQ youth and families to be reached. Another study by Snapp, Watson, Russell, Diaz, & Ryan, (2015) also found that different forms of social support were related to the health and well-being of LGBT individuals. Sexuality-related support provided by family, friends and the community often leads to enhanced identity development among the young LGBT. Based on the findings of this study, one of the proposed interventions is increasing efforts to educate parents and families about how and the need of offering support to their LGBT children. Promoting school-based support is another intervention that can come up with various strategies such as offering LGBT-inclusive curricula and training school providers and teachers on how LGBT students can be supported. The schools can sponsor peer-based groups that can enable young people to get involved in open discussions about their experiences and receive peer support.


The use of theory in analyzing the case is important as it provides a tool for understanding the behavior of the client, particularly at her individual, family, and community level. The client’s delay in revealing her sexual orientation to her family in order to avoid disharmony caused a lot of harm to her mental health. Lack of family support in regards to her sexual orientation worsened her behavioral situation since they rejected her and made her homeless. The support she received from her friends and the group home contributed significantly to certain changes in her behavior. Employing a bio-psycho-cultural analysis in the case helps in understanding how various factors influence human behavior and development such as social, biological, cultural, environmental and psychological factors. It also enables one, as a generalist social worker, to become more aware of the concept of self, the importance of valuing diversity and the need to be committed to social and economic justice (Ream, & Forge, 2014). Discussing the risks and protective factors faced by the client and being aware of the various paradigms helps in examining how a person’s development is actively affected by the functioning of families, communities, groups and organizations.  The case study also helps in identifying the social, economic, psychological issues that LGBT youth are exposed to as well as the intervention strategies that can be used to address these problems. Additionally, the traditional and alternative paradigms help in identifying the role of culture, race, and diversity in human behavior as well as how one’s culture intersects with other cultures.


Bostwick, W. B., Meyer, I., Aranda, F., Russell, S., Hughes, T., Birkett, M., & Mustanski, B. (2014). Mental Health and Suicidality Among Racially/Ethnically Diverse Sexual Minority Youths. American Journal of Public Health, 104(6), 1129-1136.

Cook, L. (2007). Perceived conflict, sibling position, cut-off, and multigenerational transmission in the family of origin of chemically dependent persons: an application of Bowen Family Systems Theory. Journal Of Addictions Nursing (Taylor & Francis Ltd), 18(3), 131-140.

Feygina, I. (2013). Social Justice and the Human-Environment Relationship: Common Systemic, Ideological, and Psychological Roots and Processes. Social Justice Research, 26(3), 363-381. doi:10.1007/s11211-013-0189-8

Fisher, C. B., & Mustanski, B. (2014). Reducing Health Disparities and Enhancing the Responsible Conduct of Research Involving LGBT Youth. Hastings Center Report, 44S28-S31.

Haefner, J. (2014). An Application of Bowen Family Systems Theory. Issues In Mental Health Nursing, 35(11), 835-841. doi:10.3109/01612840.2014.921257

Kiperman, S., Varjas, K., Meyers, J., & Howard, A. (2014). LGB Youth’s Perceptions of Social Support: Implications for School Psychologists. School Psychology Forum, 8(1), 75-90.

Miville, M. L., & Ferguson, A. D. (2014). Handbook of Race-Ethnicity and Gender in Psychology. New York, NY: Springer New York, 2014.

Ream, G. L., & Forge, N. R. (2014). Homeless Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Youth in New York City: Insights from the Field. Child Welfare, 93(2), 7-22.

Saleebey, D. (2012). Human Behavior and Social Environments. A Biopsychosocial Approach. New York: Columbia University Press.

Shilo, G., Antebi, N., & Mor, Z. (2015). Individual and community resilience factors among lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and questioning youth and adults in Israel. American Journal Of Community Psychology, 55(1-2), 215-227. doi:10.1007/s10464-014-9693-8

Snapp, S. D., Watson, R. J., Russell, S. T., Diaz, R. M., & Ryan, C. (2015). Social Support Networks for LGBT Young Adults: Low Cost Strategies for Positive Adjustment. Family Relations, 64(3), 420-430. doi:10.1111/fare.12124