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Title The Science Behind Youth Work
Author Jaiwanda Patel
Key Concepts Oppression, Anti-oppressive Practice, Sociology, Psychology



Not having had any formal studying towards psychology or sociology, it has been extremely difficult to understand the various approaches and perspectives in such a short time.  However, I will try extremely hard to explain the understanding I have achieved from the Applied Social Science module.

The Applied Social Science module has enabled me to take a better look at my parents and the community I belong to.  These 2 factors have played a major role in moulding me into the person I was and the inequalities I faced within society.  Since taking up the youth and community development course, I have gained a great deal more confidence.

The Applied Social Science module consisted of 2 main topics, these being psychology and sociology.  For myself to understand human beings, I needed to understand what both the above words meant.

First of all I realised that ’Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behaviour‘. (Benson and Grove,1998:5) ’Where it seeks to understand how organisms’, such as humans ’think, learn, perceive and feel’. (Lain, Handout:00)  Unlike other sciences, psychology does not have any one particular theory or explanation.  However it does have 6 main perspectives, which are psychodynamic or psychoanalytical, biological, behaviourism, cognitive, humanistic and socio-cultural.  I will try and illustrate within this discussion, using the biological and socio-cultural perspective.  The socio-cultural perspective being where:

’people are so familiar with their own upbringing and way of life that they often forget just how different it can be-not

just in other countries but even next door!‘.

(Benson and Grove,1998:131)


This then links into sociology whereby: ‘Sociology is about the study of large groups of people in societies‘.(Benson and Grove, 1998:5) Therefore sociology is a ’set of disciplines that examines the nature of human behaviour and of human association‘.( Goodman,1992:1)  The understanding I have achieved from this module is that, behaviour is learnt from the society we live amongst.

 Also ’the culture of society is the way of life of its members‘ with ’ideas and habits‘ ’transmitted from generation to generation‘. (Haralambos and Holborn,1995:5)


Let me give you a brief background to who I am, firstly I am an Asian woman who was born in India, and came to Britain during the mid 1960’s together with my parents.  Being a Hindu and having the surname Patel, I belong to a group of people that originate from the Gujarat state in India.  More specifically from the area around Surat. 

There are a number of Patel’s who belong within this community and have now come to settle in Britain.  They have formed a community here, called the Mandata samaj-samaj meaning community in Gujarati.  This is the group that I mentioned earlier, to which I belong to.  I have mentioned this community because I feel that some of the inequalities I have faced in life is because this community insists on following a culture they followed in India.  Therefore this group is formed in order for members who share a similar religion and culture to get together and keep their traditional values alive.  In order for the younger generation to understand and recognise where they come from.  I feel that they don’t take into account the of culture of their new surroundings, which causes great distress to the young people who have 2 cultures to deal with.

The samaj then will only allow people who come from the Surat area this is an example of how: ’Hindu society in traditional India was divided in’ ’castes‘, (Haralambos and Holborn,1995:22) and still is to some extent today. Therefore, this division is to some degree recognised as ’social stratification’, which is a ’form of social inequality‘. (Haralambos and Holborn, 1995:22) Whereby resulting to people treating others from different caste’s less favourably by not allowing them to enter their community group.  If I were to enter another Hindu group, I would have to marry someone from that group.  This to me is discrimination and unequal treatment of individuals, because of who they are.  Within the Hindu society each caste have set up their own community group and within each group there are inequalities.

The inequalities that are faced by myself and other members are due to ’biological differences‘. (Haralambos and Holborn, 1995:23) These biological differences mainly refer to your gender.  This in psychology is known as the biological perspective, which believes that our biological make up affects the way in which we think. (Lain, Handout:00) However this approach attempts to understand the prejudices and therefore oppressions, one set of humans perpetrate on others. (Hayes, 1994)

The culture and values held within the community I belong to, and other Indian communities, believes in the patriarch whereby the father or man is ’the highest dignitary‘, (Collins,1959:358) ’culture determining how members of society think and feel‘ and ’value is a belief that something is good and desirable‘. (Haralambos and Holborn, 1995:3) Whereby women and children are suppose to obey and follow the rules set out by man.  In terms of a sociological perspective culture, values and norms within a ’society is the way of life of its members‘. (Haralambos and Holborn, 1995:3) Therefore, this way of life is what causes inequalities, because if anyone goes against this way of life, then they are looked down upon by others within the community.  Therefore to continually be accepted by other community members, I have found that the oppressed usually follow what is expected of them.  This inequality then doesn’t allow an individual to express and fully be appreciated for their potential.

This then explains when ever I have been treated unfairly in society, I found it extremely difficult to challenge, simply because being oppressed became a way of life, that I didn’t notice.

However to some degree I feel that culture and values held by certain members of my community will soon fade.  This is because I can see the new values, even new culture, which has been picked up from the multi-cultural British society, we all live amongst.  The new generation growing up in this country are more concerned about themselves and not their community.  This provides evidence of the break up of extended families, because many young people today prefer to be left alone to live their lives, a way of life picked up from the British society.

The functionalist perspective viewed by sociologist Emile Durkheim, believed that every person in society has a role and function to carry out, similarly to the caste system in traditional India.  Although I do believe that each person does have a role to carry out in society.  I also believe that every human being has a potential to reach for something higher in life, which would not be acceptable in a functionalist society.

Through my understanding of the humanistic perspective, this module has helped me amend a misunderstanding I previously harboured.  There would be times when I would give up on a young person, and think that they are beyond help.  Simply because the approach I was using to engage with them wasn’t effective.

The humanistic perspective, mostly associated with Maslow and Rogers who both focused on the individuals needs and ’emphasises an innate drive towards achieving ones potential‘.(Benson and Grove,1998:112) Highlighting that each person has the potential to reach a goal they have set for themselves.  This is achieved by simply offering a gentle, caring and loving approach. And bringing out their good inherent qualities.

Previously I was conditioned to believe that the culture, values and norms we follow, must be adhered to.  This was because the traditions can then be passed down to the next generation, who then can pass it on to the next.  It is due to this way of life, that causes inequalities.  Mainly because there will be individuals wanting to follow them and many that don’t.  However I do still believe that our culture, values and norms are important, but I feel it is the choice of the society to adapt and change them according to their needs.  With a possible egalitarian society ’a society in which all members are equal‘.(Collins,1959:109)

I now understand why, although I must stress that I don’t agree with it.  The reason why certain people behave the way they do.  The oppression and discrimination these people apply to others of a different race, religion and culture is a way of life that has been passed down to them.  During the late 19th century, a few psychologists believed Black people were inferior to white people.  In the levels of hierarchy people who were poor, and black ’were deserving of early death‘. (Lain, Handout:00) Therefore this form of information has been passed down from generation to generation, and adapted to oppress and give certain people the right to treat others unfairly.  An example being people from a different race and people with disabilities, who are constantly treated unfairly in employment and other facilities.

Within my practice I have become more aware of the people I interact with.  I spend a great deal of time and make the effort to study the background of the people I will be working with.  I not only find this very educating but extremely necessary to recognise a person’s religion, their culture and the inequalities and oppressions that they may be faced with.

At present I work within a centre that provides facilities for a multi-cultural society.  There is a wide range of people who use the centre, which includes Indian, African and Caribbean communities.  I feel quite comfortable interacting with these particular communities, because I have grown up with them.  I know their background and the difficulties faced by them, which helps when communicating with them.

However in recent months there have been a number of Somalian families moving into the area.  Although I have worked with and lived amongst African and many Muslim communities for a number of years. I still felt that I needed to do some background research into the Somalian community before I approached them to assess their needs.  As I have no links with any Somalian community members in Leicester.  I approached other Somalian community leaders with who I made links in Liverpool, during a visit there with the centre I work with.  I tried to find out about their religion, and what it meant to them.  Especially the culture they follow and their way of life.  From this I tried to understand how they think, and how they view their new environment.  In particular I wanted to find out about the discrimination they were receiving from other communities and the so-called institutions, such as the social security office and other facilities.  One of the problems I noticed was that many families were being located in areas where there were no mosques.  For Muslims it is essential that they attend mosques daily.  I was made aware that the women in this community are faced with many inequalities.  An example being the wives and children in a Somalian household are expected to do what their husband or father requires them to do, whether they agree or not.  However this is not an issue with them because it is social conditioning and a way of life.

Once I had this information I was then comfortable to approach certain members within the Somalian community.  I am now at a stage where if I meet members of the Somalian community on the streets, they would stand and talk to me.  The next stage would be to invite them into the community centre, in order to familiarise them with the facilities, so that they are then comfortable in using them.

© Jaiwanda Patel & Student Youth Work Online 2001

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