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Theses Doctoral

Perception of Four Relationship Factors as Related to Outcome Scores in Social Casework Treatment

Korte, Oscar

The purpose of this field study was to determine the association between clients' perceptions of the level of four relationship factors and scores on 10 outcome criteria measures. The outcome criteria were the adjusted difference in seven before-after marital and psychological behavior measures, a change index, clients' assessment of improvement in family
relationships and four outcome groups related to aspects of continuance and termination. The four relationship factors measured between pretest and post-test were clients' subjective experience of the level of accurate empathy, congruence or genuineness, regard, and unconditional positive regard communicated by their social workers. A fifth relationship variable was the sum score of the four individual factors. This highly intercorrelated system of five variables was also compared to twenty-two other independent variables for their relative ability to account for as great or greater a proportion of the variation in scores on the ten outcome criteria.
These twenty-two other variables were classified into the domains of aspects of the client, aspects of the worker, aspects of the treatment system, and post-test case status. A further attempt was made to find combinations from all twenty-seven independent variables together that consistently predicted the greatest proportion of variation in outcome scores. Prior research in other than primary social work settings and theoretical literature supported the expectation that a positive association would be found between the relationship factors and outcome in this sample of clients receiving social case-work treatment.

The total sample was composed of eighty-three clients reporting family related problems who were seen by twenty-three social workers with MSW degrees in three family service agencies. Clients were not randomly assigned but rather entered the study on a first come first served basis within the data collection time limit. Measurement instruments, all uniformly self administered, were the Locke-Wallace Marital Adjustment Test, the Semantic Differential, a measure designed by the FSAA, several questionnaires, and the Barrett-Lennard Relationship Inventory. The statistical methodology was the use of multiple regression techniques including step-wise analyses.

It was found that clients' subjective experience of the level of relationship factors predicted the scores on all of the ten outcome measures. Levels of significance ranged from .05 to .001. Relationship factors predicted as great or greater a proportion of outcome variance as any other single
variable 9 out of 10 times, and in 8 out of the 10 outcome measures as any other set of independent variables that were grouped together. However, various combinations of all twenty-seven variables together were always able to predict a greater proportion of outcome variance than the five relationship factors by themselves. These factors did not account for even half of the total variation in outcome scores despite the fact that they were the most consistent significant outcome predictors. Therefore, the experienced level of the relationship factors might be necessary but not sufficient conditions to account for all change.

It was concluded that further research is needed to see if this positive association applies to a wide cross section of social casework samples employing different interventive procedures and different outcome criteria. If the association is universal in social casework practice, it is relevant to discriminate specific worker behaviors, as well as interaction processes, that in general facilitate clients' experience of higher levels of the relationship factors. Also the relationship factors need to be accounted for as intervening variables in future studies of the relative effectiveness of different models of social casework intervention.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 4, 2015