This project is neither a Master’s thesis nor a dissertation. 2 Acknowledgments I would like to thank the many individuals in my life that provided me with unwavering support during the completion of my research project. I would also like to express my deepest level of appreciation to my research chair, Karen Carlson, for her input and guidance during this endeavor. A message of appreciation also goes out to the members of my committee, Sharon Toll Johnson & Natalie Show for your insight and reassurance. To the many people I have met along the way in the graduate social work program, thank you.
Thank you for your humor, optimism, and empathy during this shared experience. Most importantly, I would like to express my love and appreciation to my family for their understanding and support during this arduous and enlightening process. To Caleb and Sleigh, thank you for your seemingly endless questions and natural curiosity about this project, I love you. 3 Table of Contents Introduction Literature Review 8 Conceptual Framework Methodology 25 Findings 29 Discussion References 41 Appendix A 45 Appendix B 47 4 What factors influence an individual’s decision to pursue social work as a career?
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This question has been looked at from varying points of view. Past and contemporary literature has attempted to answer this question in some capacity, ranging from identifying the motives, incentives, and concerns of being a social worker to identifying what type of characteristics a potential social worker may possess. Previous research has yielded information considered beneficial to the profession but there is limited information that reviews what influences pursuit of a career in a helping profession such as social work during specific stages of the lifespan.
The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human wellbeing needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty’ (NASA, 2012). Historically, the majority of those involved in the profession who contributed significantly to the advancement of advocacy from its early beginning were women. Pioneers such as Jane Addams and Mary Richmond helped shape and define the profession through their diligence and steadfastness in advocacy for others.
The background of aforementioned prominent figures had both similarities and differences with regards to their upbringing and relationships with significant primary caregivers during their lifespan. The framework of social work has undergone many changes throughout history ranging from the feminist movement during the mid-sass’s to Mary Richmond contribution of “social diagnosis” which brought a different perspective on addressing societal ills through focus on the inner process of individuals (Andrews & Brendan, 1993). As the profession of social work has evolved, so has the diversity of those 5 entering this unique field.
From 1974 through 2000, there was an increase of almost 30% in social work graduates who were people of color in Bachelor of Social Work orgasm (Lie, Moorish, & Schilling, 2008). With the increase in diversity came an increase in the number of BBS and Joint BBS-MS programs which grew from 1 50 to 404 between 1974 and 2000. Reasons behind the increase in social work among individuals from different socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, and genders have been variable and perhaps enigmatic as the data collected regarding this increase did not identify specific motivating factors that influenced the decision to become students of social work.
Universities seeking ideal candidates for a degree in social work have created specific arterial to ensure applicants are not only academically competent, but to make certain they also share the values and beliefs that coincide with that of the educational institution. One such method of determining “good candidates” consist of requiring potential students to write personal statements in an attempt to determine what factors may have influenced their decisions to pursue social work, along with understanding their personal values and beliefs (University of North Dakota, 2012).
Fields such as vocational psychology have helped with targeting driving forces behind individual employment aspirations, while taking into inconsideration personal and environmental influences. Cottonseeds (2001) discussed the importance of identifying the antecedents of work productivity through childhood influences, educational experiences, and attainments. How personality structure can influence vocational behavior is also an important aspect of this area of study.
As vocational psychology has 6 helped with career guidance, there have also been some identified areas of weakness Becker & Cottonseeds (1981) noted in their article, the “widespread assumption in vocational psychology is that aspirations for particular types of work play a significant ole in determining the kinds of Jobs people eventually obtain” (p. 125). The authors described a more accurate reason for career choice was more determined by environmental contingencies or availability of particular Jobs and training program instead of vocational aspirations.
More directly, previous research of social work students identified idealism, altruism, and perhaps personal life experiences as possible influences of career choice (Minority & Murray, 2007). A different perspective is provided by Pearson (1973) who studied individual motives of students pursuing careers in social work. Person’s article described how individuals who chose a career in social work were individuals who were either exhibiting some form of primitive political rebellion or were projecting their own internal unresolved issues from childhood onto that of some unsuspecting client.
In contrast to Person’s perspective of factors that influenced social workers to pursue their chosen field, Krause (2008) discussed how her own personal interest in social work happened later in life and was due in part to some of the core ideologies of social work, such as social Justice and advocacy. After accepting temporary position with a nonprofit organization, Krause began writing editorials for a local social work Journal, and quickly familiarized herself with the profession and discovered that social work matched her own personal beliefs and ideas. In regards to early life experiences, the term attachment theory has been defined as a concept that suggests an infant has an inborn biological need for close contact with its mother or caregiver. This concept describes a normal bond as developing within the first 6 months of life through the caregivers responsiveness to those needs. Maternal deprivation during this period can have adverse effects on the psychological development of the child (A Dictionary of Psychology, Bed, 2012). A significant contributor to the concept of attachment theory was John Bowl, a prominent British child psychologist.
Bowls contribution to attachment theory was to use the concept as a tool for clinicians to have a better understanding of psychopathology, emotional stress and development (Strauss, 2000). A major theme of Bowls work regarding attachment theory revolved around the relationship between mother and infant and significant caregivers and how the tatters established early on predicted the developmental outcomes of the child (Van deer Host, 2008). It was concluded from Bowls research that external relationships, such as the way a parent treated a child, could provide insight into a child’s behavior.
Bowl also concluded from his research that repeated separation experiences during childhood could cause psychological harm in childhood that could carry on through adulthood. Bowl proposed that interaction with significant others throughout the lifespan, predominantly between early childhood and adolescence created styles of relating to others in close relationships (Wilson, 2007). People, People, Bucker, Kern & Curette, (2009) noted in their article how attachment world and governing behavior.
Thus attachment theory provides a theoretical perspective about closeness and relational style that may be related to vocational choices, particularly in the area of human services. The intent of this qualitative study is to examine life experiences that may influence an individual to pursue a career in social work. This research article is significant to the profession of social work as it emphasizes the importance of selfsameness and may provide insight into which populations are most inclined to pursue such an endeavor.
The literature review will begin with an overview regarding prominent historical figures in the practice of social work to provide some insight into their upbringing and identify important influences throughout their lifespan that helped them to become remarkable advocates for the disenfranchised. Characteristics of social workers will also be discussed in an attempt to identify what qualities are required to be an effective and productive social worker.
The remaining sections of the literature review will consist of discussion of concepts from vocational psychology and different horses regarding lifespan development in attempt to identify what factors may influence an individual to pursue a career in a helping profession such as social work. Historical Background of Early Pioneers Perhaps one of the most prominent figures in the history of social work is Jane Addams, a staunch reformer who dedicated her life to improving the living conditions of the disadvantaged.
An important source detailing Cane’s upbringing is her autobiography, Twenty Years at Hull House (Addams,1912). This work contains her early writings, newspaper clippings, records from Hull House, and influences that heaped 9 her into the person she became. Within the text, Jane described how she viewed her father, John Addams, a businessman and state senator, as an important influence in her life, an individual respected in the community as a prominent fugue. Addams also described how she held her father in such high esteem, she was hesitant to interact with her father in public in fear of embarrassing him.
She described herself as “the ugly, pigeon toed little girl whose crooked back obliged her to walk with her head held very much upon one side, who would never be pointed out to these suitors as the daughter of this fine man” (Addams, 1912, p. 5). Addams described a poignant moment with her father around the age of seven, when she was exposed to the “first sight of the poverty’ and began to question her father about why individuals lived in such conditions of squalor.
Addams did not elaborate as to what her father told her in response to her question, but made clear that it influenced her to take residence within the broken and crowded homes to which she was exposed in order to help those in need. By all accounts, it does not appear as if Addams was adversely assumption can be made that a normal bond did develop between Jane and her mother during the first 6 months of her life. However, this perceived bond does not appear to have been greatly influential in Cane’s evolution as an individual.
Addams describes how as a little girl, she may have been more heavily influenced by her mother had she not died when Jane was an infant. From Jane Addams’ account, the relationship with her father seemed to be more important in instilling her a sense of responsibility and altruism. Cane’s description of how she emulated her father’s ways and habits, in absence of her mother, supports the 0 idea that interaction with a “significant” presence during childhood influenced how Jane viewed the world and governed her behavior as an adult.
Aside from the influences of her father, Addams (1912) also described how her exposure to poverty significantly impacted her. In her autobiography, Addams had an overwhelming sense of responsibility to repair societal wrongs, so much so that her sense of obligation triggered a dream in which she was assigned the task of making a wagon wheel, which metaphorically represented her attempt at rebuilding humanity and ending suffering (Addams, 1912). Jane was also fortunate in that her life experiences took her overseas where she was exposed to different philosophies and societal influences.
Addams’ idea for the famous settlement house, Hull House, was greatly influenced by the first settlement house in Europe, Toynbee Hall. Other accounts of Jane Addams’ life support her statement that her father was an important figure in her life, but there are weaknesses in the assumption that the relationship between the author and her father solely impacted her development. Victoria Bessel Brown (2004) in her text, describes the amount of support Jane achieved from her eldest sister, Mary, who was 18 years of age when Cane’s mother passed away.
Marry role was that of surrogate parent to the remaining children in the household, including Jane, as her father was absent from the children the year after the death of Cane’s mother. “Motherless though she was, the toddler Jennie Addams was embedded in a safe and attentive circle of responsible, caring adults” (Brown, 2004, p. 24). The assumptions by Brown are limited, as the author’s statements rely on written sources other than Jane Addams herself.
Further limitations to the use of Jane Addams’ autobiography include 1 the level of accuracy, as it was suspected Jane may have exaggerated her past and present life to create an idealized version of herself for the public (Brown, 2007). There is also some literature to indicate that Mary Richmond, another important icon of social work, was significantly influenced by one primary caregiver during her upbringing. Richmond, an equally significant influence in the profession of social work, made it her mission to improve the level of appreciation and understanding of social work in the community (Murders, 2011).
Similar to Jane Addams, Richmond very young. Marry only memory of her mother was that of climbing into her bed towards the time of her mother’s death, around the age of four (Alderman, 1994). Marry father worked as a blacksmith in a munitions factory in Illinois and was not a consistent fugue in Marry upbringing. Neither parent played a significant role in Marry childhood development. After the death of Marry mother in 1865, Marry grandmother, Inimitable Harris assumed the role of surrogate caretaker for Mary.
Inimitable may have helped to influence Marry pursuit in social advocacy as her personal causes consisted of women’s rights and spiritualism. Further, Mary was exposed to different elements because her grandmother helped to improve her vocabulary and understanding of society from an adult perspective. Mary would often accompany her grandmother to social events where the majority of those in attendance were adults whose areas of interest included advocacy for women. Richmond was noted as inheriting one significant quality from her grandmother, “that fulfillment comes from fighting for a cause” (Alderman, 1994, p. 4). Similar to Jane Addams, it was noted that Richmond had the propensity to dramatist the level of poverty she experienced in order to project the image of someone 12 ho truly understood poverty because she experienced it firsthand. Interestingly, both Addams and Richmond experienced the early loss of a parent during their early years in life. Despite the loss of a parental figure, both Addams and Richmond had individuals who served to be tremendous role models, helping to influence their decisions to become advocates for the disenfranchised.
Influence of NASA The National Association of Social Workers is an organization that was “developed to maintain the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards, and to advance sound social policies” (NASA, 2012, . P). Educational institutions that are participants in this organization have utilized the NASA Code of Ethics as a guide for current and future social workers to maintain appropriate professionalism and to adhere to values and beliefs that are congruent with the concepts of social work.
The social work profession, as indicated by the NASA, is rooted in core values that have been agreed upon throughout the professions history, consisting of six standards, (1) Service, (2) Social Justice, (3) Dignity and Worth of the Person, (4) Importance of Human Relationships, (5) Integrity and (6) Competence. Pertaining to the Value of Service, the goal of the social worker is essentially to help people in need and address social problems. The objective of the Social Justice value is to challenge social injustice and pursue social change when encountered on behalf of the disenfranchised and oppressed.
The value of Dignity and Worth of Person refers to social workers applying basic respect and sense of value to the individuals to whom they provide services. Recognizing the importance of relationships between and among individuals as a vital tool for social change which is a goal of the value entered on the Importance of Human Relationships. The intention of the value Integrity is that social workers behave and act in a trustworthy manner within the organizations with which they are affiliated.
The final value regarding Competence requires that social workers practice within their areas of competence and maintain and develop their professional skills to provide adequate and appropriate services to those in need. Characteristics of Social Workers Person’s (1973) perception of those who pursued a career in social work differed significantly from the expectation set forth by the NASA. Pearson presents in his marry an alternative description of social workers as being essentially political deviant and that the core of pursing a career in social work was “born out of a complex of moral and political impulses” (p. 25). Pearson also goes on to state that the motivational accounts by individuals pursuing social work may be based on the individual’s feelings of guilt about societal wrongs or to make up for emotional damage incurred perhaps in early childhood. Further, Pearson believed social workers imagine themselves as “super parents”, finding some level of enjoyment in having clients dependent on them (p. 12). Hillarie and Woodward (2001) described the fundamental role of a social worker as being a “change agent” (p. 29).
In their article, the qualities a practitioner should have in order to be an effective social worker are discussed in detail. The authors indicated that workers who exhibit warmth, accurate empathetic understanding, and genuine understanding, are more likely to have a more effective therapeutic outcome. Johnson, 1989; Goldstein,1986; Earthmover & Dixon, 1980, as noted in Hillarie and Woodward (2001), suggested that all practitioners should possess acceptable levels of warmth and 4 empathy in order to increase the likelihood of a positive relationship between worker and client.
The ability to effectively communicate clearly and consistently is also an important characteristic in being a social worker. Hillarie and Woodward (2001) suggested that practitioners should possess culturally germane nonverbal skills, such as appropriate facial expressions and the ability to pace their interactions with clients. The authors describe this interaction as an “empathetic dance wherein the therapist uses his or her voice, body, or gestures in harmony with the client” (p. 22).
The ability to communicate non-verbally is described as equally important as it can help to strengthen the social worker and client relationship by building unity and emotional identification. This type of interaction is designed to increase the level of trust which is important in social work interventions. Cohen (1966) attempted to identify specific characteristics between two groups of social workers, those that practiced private practice and those that did not, in an attempt to determine if the differences between the two groups were shaped by influences, contingencies met, and personal choices.
The results of Cone’s study employed, social workers were either introduced to or alienated from influences that could sway their decision to pursue private practice. For example, social workers that worked with other social workers who either had experience with private practice or were supportive of pursuing private practice were more likely to follow private practice for themselves. This study did take into account various influences in the participants’ lifespan, but indicated that career decisions among social workers could be influenced later in life. 15 Vocational Psychology