The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Personal and Social Network Characteristics As Predictors of Resident Role Model Status Within Therapeutic Communities

Saturday, January 18, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Ashleigh Hodge, MSW, Research Assistant, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Keith Warren, PhD, Associate Professor, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Jessica V. Linley, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Background and Purpose: Residents of therapeutic communities (TCs) are expected to act as role models for peers (De Leon, 2000; Perfas, 2012).  This exploratory study looks at the personal and social network characteristics that predict staff ratings of resident role model status within TCs. 

Methods:  Fifty female residents of a prison-based TC were given a peer interaction log that included behaviors such as sending verbal affirmations and corrections to peers.  Participants were asked to track peer interactions for a 12 hour period.  Verbal affirmations and corrections were treated as a directed social network.  UCINet was used to generate Freeman outdegree centrality for the networks of affirmations sent to peers and corrections sent to peers.  Eigenvalue centrality, which counts residents who affirm more central members of the network as more central, was calculated for affirmations sent to peers.  Two weeks after resident data was collected, staff members were surveyed about whether they considered participants to be role models, using a simple yes/no format.  The yes answers were then summed to form a role model score.  SPSS was used to complete a Poisson regression with this score as a dependent variable, with .10 set as the alpha level due to small sample size. 

Results: The number of corrections that residents gave to peers (Freeman outdegree centrality) positively predicted staff ratings of role model status (B = .227; p = .007).  The number of affirmations that residents gave negatively predicted staff ratings of role model status (B = -.140; p= .017); this variable did not approach statistical significance until eigenvalue centrality was included.  Eigenvalue centrality positively predicted staff ratings of role model status (B = 2.999, p = .051).  Race, education, age and time from entry were not correlated with role model status.

Conclusions and Implications:  TC staff judge residents as role models based on their actions within the community, rather than on demographics or seniority.  When residents give more corrections to peers, more staff members see them as role models.  This suggests that staff members may view the act of giving a correction as difficult and therefore evidence of role model status.  Staff members are less likely to view residents as role models when they give more affirmations to peers.  It is possible that this represents a Hawthorne effect, in which residents who are not role models put extra effort into sending affirmations because they are in a study.  It is also possible that staff members are concerned that residents who are not role models may send affirmations as an attempt to curry favor with peers.  Staff members view those residents who affirm peers who have themselves sent the most affirmations as role models.  Further social network studies of TC processes are needed to determine whether these patterns are general.


De Leon, G. (2000). The therapeutic community: Theory, model, and method.  New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company, Inc.

Perfas, F.B. (2012). Deconstructing the therapeutic community: A practice guide for professionals. North Charleston, SC: Create Space.