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Role, stress and social casework practice : an assessment of the concepts of role and stress in relation to a sample of social casework practice Hawley, Constance Margaret

Abstract

Late in 1959, the Council on Social Work Education published a thirteen volume study on the desirable objectives of social work education. In the volume on casework method , it is proposed that the concepts of "role" and "stress" be used in combination for the assessment.of clients' problems. Leading social workers have expressed much interest in these proposals but have agreed that extensive research and testing are necessary to bring the theory to the level of practice. This thesis attempts a contribution in this area, applying the "social role theory" empirically to a sample of social casework practice. Such an evaluation must be made in relation to the social work profession's ultimate responsibility to the client. The criterion: Will this theory enable the social worker to help the client more effectively? The sample group are twelve cases from the files of the Children's Clinic, Mental Health Centre, where both parents and children receive treatment services. The social functioning of the parents has been examined in relation to the social functioning of the primary client, the child. The case record material was first analyzed on the basis of the concept of stress, the attempt being made to identify a) the sources of stress, b) the values threatened, c) the duration of stress, d) the response to stress, e) the major roles impaired and f) the reciprocal roles affected. The concept of role was utilized to describe and rate child and parents in terms of a) performance in major social roles and b) the interrelatedness of roles in the family network. The degree of role impairment was rated for the roles of husband, wife, father, mother, son or daughter, sibling, employee, student and member of community (for adults) or peer (for children). Assessment and redefinition of the client in relation to his problem was then attempted for each case. This study has brought a number of analytical features to light. There is need for clarification of specific roles, e.g., "employee,” where there are intersecting roles. Sibling relationships require considerably more study. It suggests the need for obtaining information regarding the adequacy of the client and those in his immediate role network in the early fact-finding phase of treatment, in such a way as to minimize additional resistance. It also suggests the necessity of eliminating confusion in the client role through a mutual understanding of the client-worker expectations in the early stage of treatment. An important feature of the theory that must be considered if it is to be put into practice, is that the client must be perceived not only in terms of general emotional responses to stress e.g., "anxiety" but in terms of how this reaction has affected his social functioning, i.e., which roles in his network of relationships are impaired and which threatened.

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