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Theses Doctoral

Puerto Rican Adolescents and Helpers View the Helping Experience: A Comparison of the Populations and Their Perspectives

Lynskey, John Andrew

This is an exploratory, descriptive study that examines perceptions of the helping experience taking the views of a group of Puerto Rican adolescents from Newark, New Jersey and comparing them with the views of a group of adult helpers also from Newark, New Jersey. The study samples are selected using a purposive, non-random approach. A major purpose of the study is to examine the impact that the ethnic background of a helper might have on congruence or dissonance of perception with a group of Puerto Rican teenagers. With this idea in mind the helper sample is quota selected yielding roughly even numbers of Black, Latino and White helpers.

A major assumption of the study is that congruence of views between a helper and client will have a positive impact on the helping experience.

The study first describes the demographics and perceptions of its adolescent subjects. It then goes on to describe the demographics and perceptions of its adult helpers employing tests of significance to do inter-group comparisons. Finally the demographics and perceptions of the Puerto Rican adolescent subjects in the study are compared with each of the adult groups.

The study hypothesizes that the ethnic background of a helping person will have an impact on congruence or dissonance of views with an adolescent group. More particularly the study hypothesizes that the views of Puerto Rican adolescents will be closer to the views of helpers of their own ethnic background or at least to helpers of a minority background and further away from the views of non-minority helpers.

An instrument using both scaled and open-ended items was developed based on an operationalized definition of the helping experience. Data elicited through the instrument is analyzed using frequencies, chi-square and tests of significance. Qualitative material, which is used supportively relative to the central issues of the study, is analyzed using an inspection technique.

Outcomes suggest that the Puerto Rican adolescents in the study feel more positively about a helping experience than do any of the adult groups. They tended to be closer to the Latino helpers than to the Black or White helpers in their perceptions, particularly in negative self perceptions and perceptions of their communities. Generally, they were closer to Whites than to Blacks in their perceptions. Beyond these general findings an analysis of congruence and dissonance of views between the adolescents and adult helpers in this study presents a very mixed picture, suggesting that for the population in this study there is not a consistent, overriding pattern.

The study does establish that for its subjects the ethnicity of a helper is of importance but not of major importance in a helping experience. Competence and human qualities of warmth and caring are equally important.

The study strongly suggests the need for basic research having to do with a significant population at risk - Puerto Rican adolescents - and the development of supportive counseling programs that are capable of
reaching this population.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Thesis Advisors
Jenkins, Shirley
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 30, 2015