Methods:We conducted three studies through which we investigated a sample of Chinese social workers from the most developed area in terms of their workplace ––Guangdong Province. First, we utilized qualitative methods to identify the components of social workers’ professional identity and used NVivo software’s 11 Pro version to analyze text data (interview recording, etc.)in order to determine the dimensions and items of professional identity. Next, we used a sample of 1041 social workers,78.5% of them were female (n = 817) and their mean age was 29 (SD = 6.874),to develop and validate a new SWPI scale that we based on the themes we identified in Study 1 and used exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analysis to construct and evaluate new developed SWPI scale. Finally, we employed a structural equation modeling design to examine how social workers’ professional identity and cynicism affected their occupational turnover intentions. The mixed method designed we chose is the most appropriate when building on prior theory, proposing new constructs, and investigating their impacts on job turnover.
Results: Based on the results from semi-structured interviews with 23 social workers,professional support wasemerged as a new dimension in social workers’ professional identity, including other three dimensions asprofessional attachment, professional cognition, and professional status. In addition, the newly developed SWPI scale including 19 itemsdemonstratedgoodconstruct validity (CMIN/df= 3.357, GFI = .911, CFI = .930, TLI rho 2 = .918, RMSEA = .066, and SRMR = .0614). Furthermore, we also found: (1) all four dimensions of professional identity—professional support, professional attachment, professional cognition, and professional status—significantly predicted occupational turnover intention(β= -0.526**, β= -0.345***, β=0.184*, and β= -0.295**, respectively); 2) cynicism fully mediated the relationship between professional cognition and occupational turnover intention and that between professional status and occupational turnover intention; 3) the dimensions of professional attachment and professional support had a significantly negative direct effect on social workers’ occupational turnover intention, even after considering the mediating effect of cynicism(β= -0.206***, β= -0.328*).
Implications:Our research found mutualism may reasonably play a key role in the construction of professional identity and can be operationalized as professional support for social workers. This requires us should pay attention to social support for professional identity, especially in countries with an underdeveloped social work system, which strengthening professional support, increasing professional attachment, and reducing cynicism to weaken the turnover intention of social workers. These findingsenhance the understanding of Chinese social workers’ occupational turnover andcan inform further development of the social services profession in developing countries such as China.