Methods: Social work students in Spain and the USA were surveyed about their human rights exposure and engagement using scales that were initially validated in the USA—human rights exposure in social work and human rights engagement in social work (HRESW; McPherson & Abell, 2012)—and then validated in Spain using factor analysis (Cubillos Vega, Ferran Aranaz, & McPherson, 2018). Human rights engagement is a composite construct that combines endorsement of human rights principles, a belief in their relevance to social work, and the commitment to putting principles into practice. All items are scored on a 7-point scale. In this presentation, the survey data is analyzed for content in order to describe differences between U.S. and Spanish students.
Results: Overall, 283 U.S. and 475 Spanish students participated. In both countries, 83% of students surveyed were female. Students in Spain (M= 6.32; SD=1.01) and the US (M= 6.34; SD=1.06; X2(1,758)=0.81; p<.368).) strongly and similarly endorsed rights-based statements like, “I believe that equal rights for all are the foundation for freedom in the world.” Spanish participants were more likely to have read the UDHR (X2(1,750)=7.78, p<.01), and they scored higher (M=6.10; SD=0.56) on rights-engagement than their U.S. peers (M= 5.99; SD=0.66; F(1,757)=4.00, p<.05). Though all students largely rejected the statement that “Sometimes torture is necessary to protect national security,” U.S. students (M=2.37, SD=1.68) were significantly more likely to positively endorse torture than their Spanish peers (M=1.52, SD=1.08; X2(1,756)=73.16; p<.001). Echoing the U.S. Bill of Rights, U.S students (M=6.71, SD=0.63) were significantly more likely to endorse the statement, “respecting clients’ freedom of religion is part of social work practice” than their Spanish peers (M=6.25, SD=1.23; X2(1,758)=133.22; p<.001). Other social rights, like “reasonable working hours and periodic holidays without pay,” special assistance for mothers and young children, and the right to housing, were significantly more highly scored by Spanish students, whose country affirms these rights through the European Convention on Human Rights.
Conclusions: Spanish students generally evidence higher human rights engagement and more support of social rights than their U.S. peers. Scholars will suggest explanations for differences observed between the groups and consider the lessons that can be applied to social work education globally.