Human Behavior in the Social Environment

Interweaving the Inner and Outer Worlds, 2nd Edition

By Esther Urdang

© 2008 – Routledge

736 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780789034182
pub: 2008-05-12
US Dollars$73.95
Hardback: 9780789034175
pub: 2008-05-19
US Dollars$200.00

e–Inspection Copy

About the Book

This new and updated edition of the vital human behavior textbook for graduate-level social work students emphasizes the biopsychosocial framework with a psychodynamic and developmental perspective, with updated information on contemporary thinking and the application of postmodern theory. Written from the perspective of a classroom teacher, faculty advisor, and clinician, Human Behavior in the Social Environment discusses current social issues such as older people, violence, and abuse.

The bookapproaches development through the life cycle, discussing the developmental challenges, tasks, and problems of each stage. Presenting complex concepts in a clear and understandable way, it also examines and integrates systems and organizational factors, as well as the impact of culture on clients and treatment programs. A helpful instructor's manual accompanies this text, and is available as a free download from

Human Behavior in the Social Environment looks at:

  • the biopsychosocial perspective
  • psychoanalytic and ego psychology theories
  • object relations, self psychology, and cognitive-behavioral theories
  • postmodern theories: constructivism, relational therapy, narrative theory, and resilience
  • social systems in the community
  • culture and diversity
  • forms and organizations of the family
  • internal family structures and special family problems
  • reproductive issues, infancy, and early childhood development,
  • middle childhood and adolescence
  • adult development
  • life transitions, turning points, crises, and loss
  • illness and disability; mental health problems
  • and much more!

With case vignettes, chapter-by-chapter learning exercises, and additional readings, as well as material from literary works, biographies, and newspapers, this copiously-referenced volume illustrates the complexities of human existence, the multiple social conflicts operating in society, and the relevance of social policy dilemmas.

While especially designed to benefit and enlighten graduate social work students it is also a valuable resource for undergraduate social work students as well as beginning and advanced readers in human services such as nursing, medicine, public health, clinical psychology, counseling, who will find this both a helpful review and source of new knowledge.


“Social work students who have the good fortune to have this book as a text for their Human Behavior and the Social Environment class will actually enjoy this very readable overview of numerous theories and their application in case examples. Grounded in a bio-psychosocial perspective, this INCREDIBLY COMPREHENSIVE book emphasizes the psychodynamic understanding of human behavior through examples from novels, biographies and autobiographies in addition to newspaper and magazine articles. . . . BREATHES LIFE INTO THE THEORIES AND MANAGES TO CONVEY THE VAST COMPLEXITY OF LIFE FROM BIRTH TO ADULTHOOD. Learning exercises at the end of each chapter help the student integrate the concepts into a social work practice framework. . . . A VALUABLE CONTRIBUTION TO SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION.”

Nancy Boyd Webb, DSW, Distinguished Professor of Social Work, Fordham University

“True to its title, this work offers A RICH, INCLUSIVE, UP TO DATE REVIEW of the many formulations that help to reveal the person in the environment. More importantly, it identifies converging understandings that bridge separate lines of that work. It thus offers an image of the increasingly comprehensive understandings that are within our grasp and invites our participation in that exciting enterprise.”

Roger R. Miller, DSW, Professor Emeritus, Smith College School for Social Work

“ENGAGING AND LUCID. . . . Presents a balanced view of human behavior theories, successfully shedding light on the age-specific needs, abilities and challenges of individuals over the course of their lives. Drawing on a biopsychosocial perspective, Urdang successfully integrates psychodynamic theory with other theoretical perspectives. . . . SHOULD BE WIDELY USED IN SOCIAL WORK AND RELATED HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES CURRICULA.”

Eric Kingson, PhD, Professor of Social Work, Syracuse University

"What an absolute fantastic summary of theories most used in social behaviour assesments! So easy to read and understand, especially Freud which can be so difficult. A highly recommended text."

-- Colleen Ballard, (endorsement from

Table of Contents

Section I. The Biopsychosocial Perspective 1. Overview 2. Psychoanalytic and Ego Psychology Theories 3. Object Relations, Self Psychology, and Cognitive-Behavioral Theories 4. Postmodern Theories: Constructivism, Relational Therapy, Narrative Theory, and Resilience 5. Social Systems and the Community 6. Culture and Diversity 7. The Family: Forms and Organization 8. The Family: Internal Structures and Special Family Problems Section II. The Life Cycle 9. Reproductive Issues, Infancy, and Early Childhood Development 10. Middle Childhood and Adolescence 11. Adult Development Section III. Special Issues 12. Life Transitions, Turning Points, Crises, and Loss 13. Illness and Disability 14. Mental Health Problems Section IV. Integration 15. Conclusion

About the Author

Esther Urdang, PhD, formerly Adjunct Associate Professor and Assistant Director of Field Education, Boston College Graduate School of Social Work; Research Advisor, Adjunct Associate Professor, Smith College Graduate School for Social Work; Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology, Wheaton College (Spring 2007). She is a licensed independent clinical social worker with over 35 years of experience in the field and holds a Diplomate in Social work from NASW. The author or co-author of numerous articles, Dr. Urdang has also written the first edition of Human Behavior in the Social Environment: Interweaving the Inner and Outer Worlds (Haworth) and Becoming a Social Worker: The First Year.

About the Series

Social Work Practice in Action

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychotherapy / Counseling