Human rights have been a central South Korean social work competency since 1973 when they were included in the Code of Ethics. Few studies, however, have assessed the impact of human rights on Korean social work practice, and no reliable or validated scales previously existed to support such research. This study addresses that gap by translating and adapting the Human Rights Lens in Social Work (HRLSW; McPherson, Siebert, & Siebert, 2017) scale, which measures social workers’ tendency to see individual and social problems as human rights violations.
Method: The HRLSW comprises 11 items with two subscales: clients as rights holders (6 items); and social problems as rights violation (5 items). Item responses are indicated on a seven-point Likert-type scale ranging from (1) strongly disagree to (7) strongly agree. The HRLSW, first developed in the US, was translated into Korean using ‘forward and back translation,’ in which items are translated into the new language and then back into the original language by different readers (Tran, 2009). The research was approved by the Institutional Review Board at Dong-Eui University.
The Busan Association of Senior Welfare Centers provided researchers with a list of 31 senior welfare centers employing 430 licensed social workers in Busan city. A self-administered questionnaire, an informed consent form, and a return envelope was mailed to all identified social workers. A total of 401 participants (average age 36 years; 74% female) returned the self-administrated survey (response rate = 93.2%).
After item-level analysis, the data set (n=401) was randomly split into two groups (group 1= 202; group 2=199) in order to conduct EFA and CFA on separate samples (Raykov & Widaman, 1995). A chi-square analysis showed no significant differences between the two groups. The psychometric properties of Korean HRLSW (K-HRLSW) were tested using Cronbach’s alpha, exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). Item-level analyses and EFA were conducted using IBM SPSS 26; AMOS 25.0 was used for the CFA.
Results: The overall reliability of the measure was strong (alpha= .860), and the reliability of the sub-scales ranged from satisfactory to strong (.776 for clients as rights holders; .875 for social problems as rights violation). All item-total correlations were higher than .30, and no items were recommended for deletion by item-if-deleted analysis. Using principal component analysis (n=202) with varimax rotation, all 11 items loaded on the same factors (total variance =57.8%) as the English-language HRLSW. In order to confirm the K-HRLSW factor structure, a CFA (n=199) was run. The overall fit of the model with the two factors is acceptable, with χ² = 117.8 (p < .001), RMSEA = .094, GFI=.91, CFI = .92, and IFI = .92.
The K-HRLSW scale is reliable and valid. It can now be used to assess social workers’ ability to identify human rights violations, so that evidence-based human rights training can be developed and implemented. Social workers must learn to recognize the human rights violations that affect their clients in order to align their practice with the Code of Ethics.