The Need for Advancement in the Conceptualization of Cultural Competence

Joseph S. Gallegos, Cherie Tindall, Sheila A. Gallegos

Abstract


The concept of cultural competence has become ubiquitous in human services
language and settings. Though the literature from various disciplines is replete with
discussions on the topic, there still exists much disagreement regarding the definition of
cultural competence as well as how to operationalize, test, and apply concepts related to
cultural competence in social service settings. A related issue stems from debate
regarding whether cultural competence is a theory, model, paradigm, framework, or
perspective. Though cultural competence has been referred to as a theory by some
scholars from different disciplines (e.g., Lum, 2005; Blue, Thiedke, Chessman, Kern, &
Keller, 2005; Wu & Martinez, 2006), there is still disagreement about whether the
concepts related to cultural competence actually meet the criteria for a theory and,
consequently, whether they can be used to generate hypotheses and allow for
independent observations that can be used to continue building theory, conduct empirical
research, and provide evidenced-based practice implications. The authors join in this
theory debate through an analysis of the elements of theory and conclude that it has
better fit with the definition of social perspective than it does social theory.

Keywords


Culture; competence; theory

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