Social Problems that Existed in 19th a 20th Century

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Updated: Dec 02, 2022
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A social problem basically refers to a state of difficulty experienced by members of a given society which makes them unable to reach their goals as individuals and the society at large. Social problems may have direct or even indirect effects on the people and such problems include substance abuse, poverty, poor hosing infrastructures, criminal activities, and unemployment’s, and lack of properly balanced diet leading to malnutrition among others.

Between 19th and 20th century, there were many social problems which led to social workers and policies to work for the good of the people by solving the existing problems. Mulaly, in his book challenging oppression &confronting privilege, gives a guide as to some of the means to end oppression. He has expounded on the various level at which oppression occurs at a personal, cultural, and even structural level (Mullaly, 2010).

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Ife in his book, has expounded on how social workers and all organizations working towards solving the social problems can borrow from the principles of human rights to guide them in their work, he argues that by having a better understanding of the rights, will they be able to make better moves and decisions during practice (Ife, 2012). An example of the social problem which was rampant Child abuse was rampant between this period and the children were molested by adults.

They had already trusted the adults to the point that acts of molestation couldn’t be sensed as the children perceived this was normal. Additionally, children knew that any adult person had all the powers to control the child and no wonder children were manipulated. Seduction could also occur and the cases of child abuse have for long been on the rise (Gore & Lesley, 1997). scholars argue that the causes of such moral breakdowns in the society could be due to the breakdown of the family as a unit and children grow without security from both parents, an act which makes them desperate and hence vulnerable to the malicious acts of people who abuse them when trying to help them with issues of life (Dube et al, 2003).

Additionally, the society got to a point where the performers of such action could be tolerated and without severe punishment, the behaviour just continued. Many countries have experienced child abuse and especially child abuse, and this has been so rampant in the USA in the 19th century, with cases of sexual abuse occurring even at home. Acts of incest could be reported and this was quite breath-taking. It has taken a lot of effort from social workers to try and clean the mess and as much as some cases are reported, the child abuse has been decreased significantly thanks to the social workers for working effortlessly to see such crimes come nearly to an end (Ceci & Bruck, 1993).


Fights for human rights by different leaders and organizations

It’s evident from history that child abuse started even before the 19th century and that during these periods, different organizations had come out to so strongly to defend the rights of the children and hence the division of children rights protection into three eras which occurred in 1875-2000 during which different forms of child abuse predominated. Focusing on the latest era spanning between 1972 to this modern era i.e. 20th century (Sanders & Becker, 1995).

Vincent de Francis can be applauded for initiating the process of fighting for children rights in 1970. He did so by doing a study whose conclusion showed a number approximating 250 cases of children sexual abuse. This only opened the eyes of many scholars who then started doing research regarding sexual abuse to children by adults. He has been a great leader in fighting the children rights and he indeed agreed that this study was more or less a tip of the iceberg as he believed that what was happening all over the country (De Francis, 1995).

The rot in the state, regarding how children were abused was very evident. A number of studies which followed led to the development of child abuse prevention and treatment act (CAPTA) of 1974 were an act by the government to help unearth cases of child abuse and punish those who had engaged in acts of child abuse while looking for best way to protect the interests of the children. This act has been involved with fighting other cases of child abuse such as racial adoption, child labour among other forms of child abuse. (Goldman et al, 2003). The act has been quite instrumental in ensuring children rights were advocated for and upheld through, funding of both governmental and non-governmental organizations to carry out research and evaluation of the welfare of the children.

Through the research, different loopholes in the society, regarding children treatment have been identified and solutions to these problems have been found out. For instance, in 1976, shortly after enactment of the act, all professionals in any department were supposed to report any case (heard or reported) of child abuse in whichever way it occurred (Goldman et al, 2003). The act has since then been funding organizations to carry out research regarding children and whether their rights are being violated or not and if yes, what ways are being used to violate the rights. It’s therefore evident that the government has been actively involved in children rights advocacy. Coming up with policies which protect and promote the well-being of the children has also been the role of the government through the act and as much as the journey is not yet over, at least there is great progress as far as advocating for children rights protection is concerned (Goldman et al, 2003).

The social worker’s response in early history and nowadays It is quite evident that the social workers of the old days responded in a different way of compared to contemporary workers. As a matter of fact, the early history workers responded to all those who had a social problem, be it health related or not. They had respect for all and attended to all people who needed their help, young or old, sick or not, and even foreigners could be attended to. Delivering service to those who needed it was their main goal and they were unstoppable in achieving the same.

The also got to question social unfairness which no-one was willing to ask and by so doing, they would bring change regarding how people were treated. Hey fought for equality for all people and this saw organization being formed to fight for rights of the people while doing away with the many social injustices which occurred in the society (Germain & Gitterman, 1996). The early history-social worker’s response is quite different from the contemporary social worker and such differences could be due to the many changes that have occurred over the centuries.

Ideally, 21st-century social problems are quite different from those of the earlier centuries and such include human beings trafficking change in climate which has greatly contributed to some catastrophes which have occurred hitting some parts of the world quite hard. Nowadays social workers have information all over the internet at their disposal and can decide to use it to prioritize their agendas. Their solving of problems has greatly been helped by the use of information as this has enabled them to know how best to solve a particular populations needs (Germain & Gitterman, 1996).

Additionally, through one organization, the United Nations, different organizations all over the world have joined forces to be able to fight the social problems more efficiently and effectively. Nowadays social workers are in a position to tell what social problem to give more priority than the other and by so doing, much can be achieved. Thanks to the international bodies which regulate the roles and responsibilities of social workers, nowadays social workers have been trained and they are still rooted to service delivery to the people who need their help. I’ve learned that it has taken great men and women’s effort to have the society with lesser social problems today, it’s all about the efforts of the early social workers who have shaped the art of service delivery without expecting back.

I strongly agree that the social workers have played a big role in ensuring the good and healthy society that we live in today. They have over the years and still are helping solve many social problems that arise with time and as much as we might not have achieved everything, a lot has been achieved. I can only appreciate and applaud them for helping shape the society into what it is today. Probably if more people were willing to help, the world would be a better place to stay (Savage, 2000).


Dube, S. R., Felitti, V. J., Dong, M., Giles, W. H., & Anda, R. F. (2003). The impact of adverse childhood experiences on health problems: evidence from four birth cohorts dating back to 1900. Preventive medicine, 37(3), 268-277.

Ceci, S. J., & Bruck, M. (1993). Suggestibility of the child witness: A historical review and synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 113(3), 403.

Gorey, K. M., & Leslie, D. R. (1997). The prevalence of child sexual abuse: Integrative review adjustment for potential response and measurement biases. Child abuse & neglect, 21(4), 391-398.

Sanders, B., & Becker-Lausen, E. (1995). The measurement of psychological maltreatment: Early data on the child abuse and trauma scale. Child Abuse & Neglect, 19(3), De Francis, V. (1995). Protecting the child victim of sex crimes committed by adults. Child Abuse: Sexual abuse, 2, 21.

Mullaly, R. P. (2010). Challenging oppression and confronting privilege: A critical social work approach. Oxford University Press, USA.

Ife, J. (2012). Human rights and social work: Towards rights-based practice. Cambridge University Press.

Goldman, J., Salus, M. K., Wolcott, D., & Kennedy, K. Y. (2003). A Coordinated Response to Child Abuse and Neglect: The Foundation for Practice.

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Germain, C. B., & Gitterman, A. (1996). The life model of social work practice: Advances in theory & practice. Columbia University Press.

Savage, M. (2000). Class analysis and social transformation. Open University Press.

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Social problems that existed in 19th a 20th century. (2019, Dec 18). Retrieved from