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Theses Doctoral

Attributional Influences in the Social Worker's Assessment of the Client's Problem

McDonell, James Roland

Social work practice theory has long been concerned with the issues of cause and responsibility inherent in efforts to define the unit of attention. This concern has focused, in part, on the potential for bias in the determination of causality, generally expressed in terms of a person-environment dichotomy. The present emphasis on an eco-systems framework for assessment in practice is viewed as an effort to respond to the debate which has resulted. These concerns of social work have been paralleled in attribution theory and it is suggested that this body of work provides an appropriate framework for an examination of the potential for causal and responsibility bias in the process of social work assessment.

The present study employed a single factor completely randomized design to investigate the influence which information presented by the client with respect to the cause of and responsibility for the problem of marital separation would have on the social worker's (a) attributions of cause and responsibility for the client's problem, (b) evaluation of the potential efficacy of social work intervention (c) attraction to the client, and (d) belief in the veridicality of the client's statements. 77 experimental subjects were randomly assigned to one of four treatment conditions, with each condition representing one of four levels of a model of attributed responsibility. These are: (a) causal responsibility, (b) knowledge responsibility, (c) intention responsibility, and (d) coercive responsibility. The independent variable was manipulated through client statements in audiotaped interview analogues, and subjects were misled into believing that they were listening to an actual interview. Data analysis provided support for the hypothesis that the four treatment groups would significantly differ on the level of responsibility which subjects attributed to the client for the problem presented, indicating that worker's are differentially influenced by client information regarding the responsibility inherent in the problem which leads the client to seek help. It was also found that the treatment groups were differentiated on the basis of evaluations of the potential efficacy of social work intervention, indicating that the influence of attributional information presented by the client led subject's to differential conclusions about the potential for a successful treatment outcome.



More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 26, 2015