The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

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

A Validation Study of the Revised Personal Safety Decision Scale

Saturday, January 18, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
HaeJung Kim, PhD, Assistant Professor, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
Karen M. Hopkins, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD
Background and Purpose:

Child welfare workers who routinely make home visits are particularly at risk for experiencing an unsafe working environment through visiting clients in unsafe neighborhoods (Burry, 2002; Pryce, Shackelford, & Price, 2007; Shin 2011). Social workers, including child welfare workers tend to have difficulty in addressing their personal safety issues because many of them see the potential for “violence” as a part of their work and they believe that they should be able to take care of themselves (Spencer & Munch, 2003; Weinger, 2001). Moreover, valid and reliable measures of home visit risks in a sample of social workers are not available, which may contribute to the lack of studies that address personal safety issues. The purpose of this paper is to examine the construct validity of a revised seven-item Personal Safety Decision Scale (McPhaul, 2005) in a sample of child welfare workers. The scale links safety concerns and experiences to social workers’ subsequent work behaviors. Therefore, valid and reliable measures are needed to assess this phenomenon and estimate the scope of the problem.


A cross-sectional design was used for this study. Data were collected from a self-reported web-based survey to public child welfare social workers in Maryland. Stratified random sampling by position from local departments (23 counties) yielded 992 professionals; 561 completed a survey for a 56.5 % response rate. Of the 561 respondents, only workers who made home visits were included, which resulted in 418 participants in the final analysis. The sample of 418 was randomly split into two sample sizes of 209 each. An exploratory factor analysis and a confirmatory factor analysis were performed to examine the scale’s construct validity.  


Cronbach’s alpha of this scale was .793. The exploratory factor analysis using maximum likelihood extraction with oblique rotation was performed on the 7-item revised personal safety decision scale. EFA indicated the presence of two factors. A series of confirmatory factor analyses using Lisrel 8.8 were performed to find a better-fitted model. The final CFA model with maximum likelihood estimation demonstrated an acceptable factorial validity for a revised scale. The model yielded an acceptable 7-item, two-factor structure with one error correlation. This model resulted in a c2 (12, N= 209) = 34.62, p < .05 and Normed-Chi Square less than three, suggesting the overall model is a good fit to data. Additional fit indices all suggested a very good model fit: RMSEA = .094 (.057-.13); NFI = .93; CFI = .95; SRMR = .059; GFI = .096.  All factor loadings were significant ranging from .34 to .76.

Conclusions and Recommendations:

            The 7-item, two factor structure with one error correlation of a revised personal safety decision scale is valid and reliable in the sample of social workers. Measures with acceptable psychometric properties facilitate identification of social workers’ safety concerns during their home visits and how their safety experiences have an impact on their organizational behavior. In addition, this scale may be a useful tool for prevention and intervention strategies for workplace violence among social workers.