Perception of social workers: An analysis of public knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs in New York City
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The study surveyed registered 170 voters in the five boroughs of New York City to (1) determine attitudes toward and knowledge about the profession of social work, and (2) test hypotheses deriving from attitude theory and literature related to the topic. This exploratory, cross sectional study was conducted between January and February 2005.;The major research question guiding the study was: how does the public perceive social workers? The question was explored through the use of a three-indice scale developed by Kaufman and Raymond (1996). Respondents were rated on their general knowledge about social workers, which included their knowledge about social work education and credentialing. Respondents were also rated on their practice setting knowledge. Finally, respondents' attitudes were explored through their scores on the Attitude Index.;Hypotheses were tested through an examination of factors that the literature suggests contribute to attitude formation. Respondents were asked if they had used the services of a social worker. If so, whether the use mandatory or voluntary, and if they perceived the social worker to be helpful? The study delved into the nature of the relationship a respondent had with a social worker (co-worker, friendship, relative) in an effort to test the theory.;The data was subject to statistical analysis using the Statistical Package for Social Services (SPSS) involving univariate and bivariate analyses. The results of the study indicate that those respondents who had greater knowledge about social workers evidenced more positive attitudes toward social workers. A large percentage of the sample (67.65%) had some contact with a social worker (direct or indirect), yet 58.2% of the sample did not know that social workers are sanctioned by society to maintain a private practice. The age-old stereotype of the social worker as child protective service worker still exists according to the data. However, respondents overwhelmingly rejected the stereotype that social workers are busybodies and meddle in people's business.;Overall, the findings demonstrated the need for initiatives to educate the public about social workers.
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