Saturday, 15 January 2005 - 10:00 AM
This presentation is part of: Cultural Diversity in Social Work Practice
The Structure and Distribution of Social Service Professionalsí Cultural Models of Domestic ViolenceCyleste C. Collins, MA, The University of Alabama.
Purpose: Victims of domestic violence seeking help through the social service system encounter professionals in a variety of fields. Research on domestic violence service delivery suggests that despite policy progress and successes, victims still face social service systems and providers that fail to collaborate and communicate efficiently with one another. This study examines the possible reasons for these gaps, and asks whether diverse social service professionals, who work in different agencies with (often) divergent goals and missions, think about domestic violence in fundamentally different ways. A cultural models framework was employed to determine the extent to which different professionalsí ideas converge and/or diverge.
Methods: A total of 135 social service professionals and a general population comparison sample participated in the study. Domestic violence agency workers, welfare workers (with subsamples of financial and child welfare workers), and nurses made up the professional sample. A mixed qualitative and quantitative methodological approach was employed across the four phases of the study. Specifically, structured and unstructured interview techniques were utilized to determine, first, what the professionals believed were the causes of domestic violence, and second, how they organized their thoughts about these causes, including the themes they used in their thinking. Third, the extent to which the professionals thought each cause was: (a) important, (b) controllable, (c) characteristic of victims or perpetrators, and (d) a cause or effect of domestic violence was assessed. Finally, how professionals used their ideas about domestic violence causation in their everyday work, as well as what policies their agencies had in place regarding domestic violence cases were investigated.
Results: Participants generated 32 different causes of domestic violence. While there were some differences, the overall structure of the professionalsí thinking, modeled by a multi-dimensional scaling of unconstrained pile sorts, was quite similar across the groups. Qualitative coding (via NUD*IST) demonstrated that the thematic dimensions participants identified were also similar. Cultural consensus analysis revealed that professionals strongly shared ideas about what factors could be controlled, and whether the factors were more characteristic of victims or perpetrators. There was little consensus, however, about the importance of the factors (with the exception of participants in the child welfare group, for whom consensus was strong) and whether the factors were causes or effects of domestic violence. Finally, important differences in the ways domestic violence cases were handled across the professions were identified.
Implications for policy and practice: Domestic violence service delivery has been often been criticized for inefficient service coordination and poor communication among different professionals and agencies. This study offers some reasons why that might be, including the very different training of professionals in different areas. In the past, public policy with regard to domestic violence has focused almost exclusively on improvements to law enforcement. New policies should focus on encouraging different groups of practitioners who deal with domestic violence victims to standardize their responses. This approach has the potential for improving coordination among the different social service providers, as well as improving what is often a confusing system for victims.
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