Role strain of the male social worker
Horton, Gale Millard
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Social work is a profession which expects its practitioners to be nurturing in affect, sensitive to the needs of the client, and supportive with empathy required for the clients' situation and problems. The profession of social work has a responsibility to identify and prevent any factor that may diminish these qualities of relationships with clients.;A commonly held stereotype is that males are socialized to be aggressive, assertive, distant from others, and dominating in relationships. If this stereotype is valid, males should experience a certain level of difficulty or discomfort in practicing the nurturing behaviors expected of social workers. Those males who most closely identify with this stereotypical depiction of male roles would conceivably experience the highest level of discomfort while practicing social work. This investigation was undertaken to determine if male social workers do indeed closely identify with the stereotype of expected male roles and if this association is related to any level of felt discomfort in the practice of social work.;The instrument used in this study was an original questionnaire developed by the author. The study employed a mailed survey. Eighty-four respondents returned the questionnaire, a return rate of 42%. This investigation found that male social workers were more likely to experience role strain practicing social work; when they were uncomfortable in the role of social worker, male social workers believed they were less masculine than males in business professions; and when practicing as a social worker it conflicted with their image of what a man should do.;This study has implications for social work administrators, supervisors, and educators, who are in a position to evaluate the practice of male social workers in relation to their sensitivity, empathy, and professionalism. These members of the profession can take the necessary steps to be alert to the existence of the problem, to educate male social workers about the problem, and to reduce the problem through such means as sensitivity training or counseling of the male social worker about issues of stress, discomfort in practicing as a social worker, burnout, or dissatisfaction with the profession.