The Personal, Cultural, and Structural Analysis (PCS) Model

Written by Sarah L.


The Personal, Cultural, and Structural Analysis (PCS) model explains how power relationships are expressed between individuals, groups, and in the wider society. The PCS model also highlights the layered effect of oppression on individuals (Pepper, 2012). The model was initially proposed by Neil Thompson in his book ‘Anti-Discriminatory Practice: Equality, Diversity and Social Justice’. It is said to have three interrelated level such as personal, cultural, and structural (Thompson, 2012).

According to the PCS model, the workings of oppression can be analysed through these levels, which are elucidated in detail below.  


Personal and Psychological Level

The personal and psychological level, which is the first of these three levels, is concerned with individual views and opinions (Nielsen et al., 2016). It refers to the way in which thoughts and emotions can have an impact on the inequality and oppression that are prevalent in societies. At this level, individuals form and express their beliefs and values based on their interaction with others. For example, at the personal level, people might express prejudice against a person or a group of persons. Ideals that are developed by people like patriotism, supremacy of laws or commitment to the family are mainly based on personal experiences.


Cultural Level

At the cultural level, the social norms of people are created through a consensus and conformity with the views and opinions of others. Shared beliefs regarding what is considered acceptable and what is good or bad can create a consensus with other members of the society. The cultural level explains why stereotypes are born, etiquette norms are expressed relying on social expectations, and personal beliefs are reinforced. The cultural level also recognises that personal beliefs and values are mere social patterns that are shared and reinforced by some influence groups (Beckett et al., 2017).


Structural Level

The structural level is the final level at which prejudice and oppression are firmly embedded into the fabric of the society (Thompson, 2017). This level deals with the influences of multiple social, economic, and political factors that constantly interact with a person and with each other. Structural institutions support personal beliefs developed by a person as well as cultural norms reinforced by groups. Specific institutions that can cement the beliefs of people include media, religious organisations, and even the government.

The application of the PCS model to a particular social setting will help in understanding how personal beliefs, cultural norms, and structural institutions can lead to the oppression of people in societies. A good example of applying the PCS model is explaining how religion is used to oppress people who do not accept specific teachings of Islam in countries such as Iraq and Syria. Despite the comprehensive nature of the PCS model, some analysts are still skeptical about its universal application. Even though religion may play a central role in people’s lives, this sphere is included in the PCS model only as a structural institution. Social scientists like Bernard Moss insisted on adding the spirituality component to the PCS model in order to emphasise the role played by religion in studying the workings of oppression (Beckett et al., 2017).



Beckett, C., Maynard, A. and Jordan, P. (2017) Values and ethics in social work, New York: Sage.

Nielsen, J.D.J., Wall, W. and Tucker, C.M. (2016) “Testing of a model with Latino patients that explains the links among patient-perceived provider cultural sensitivity, language preference, and patient treatment adherence”, Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 3 (1), pp. 63-73.

Pepper, S. (2012) “What is the Thompson PCS model”, [online] Available at: [Accessed on 5 June 2019].

Thompson, N. (2012) Anti-Discriminatory practice: Equality, diversity and social justice, 5th ed., New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Thompson, N. (2017) Social problems and social justice, New York: Macmillan International. Protection Status