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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The use of role and stress concepts in the assessment of marital conflict cases : the assessment of a sample of disturbed marriages in terms of role and stress concepts Regehr, Henry

Abstract

The Council on Social Work Education published, in 1949, a study on the objectives of social work education. This thirteen-volume work proposed, in the section on casework method, that the concepts of "role" and "stress" be used in combination for the purpose of assessing clients' problems. Some research has already been done to bring the theory to the level of practice, but it is generally agreed that further testing is still necessary. This thesis is an attempt to make a contribution in this area by applying "role" and "stress" concepts to a sample of social work practice. Specifically, the objective is to test the usefulness of these formulations in the assessment of marital interaction. The sample group are eight cases from the files of the Adult Clinic, Mental Health Centre. Adults there are seen on referral from medical practitioners for the primary purpose of assessment and treatment of psychiatric problems, but relatives are seen where this is deemed necessary by the treatment "team". Frequently the spouse of the patient is drawn into the treatment program and marriage counseling is done when the problem in the marriage is considered to play a significant part in the etiology of the psychiatric symptoms. In this study, the reciprocal relationship of husbands and wives seen in the Clinic were examined and the case records were analyzed on the basis of the concept of "stress". The attempt was made to identify (a) the source of stress, (b) the values threatened, (c) the duration of stress, (d) the response to stress, (e) the effect of the stress on the reciprocal role relationship of husband and wife. Assessment and re-definition of the marital problem was then attempted in each case. The study brought a number of analytical features to light. (a) The use of the concept of reciprocal role functioning in a marriage made it possible to partialize the clients' total social functioning and extract the manageable units of husband and wife roles. (b) The use of stress concepts revealed a pattern of stress and response to stress that began in the early experiences of childhood and extended into the marriage relationship. (c) There was a discernable relationship between the source of stress and the development of conflict in the marriage. (d) The nature of the stress factors appeared to color the quality of the interaction between the marriage partners. (e) There appeared to be a progressive building up of stress factors in a discernable pattern. This has been only a beginning attempt at testing out the usefulness of these concepts and it would seem that further research is indicated.

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