Child abuse: Factors influencing decision-making by social workers
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The purpose of this study was to analyze the factors that affect social workers' judgments and perceptions in the medical and protective services settings. Social workers, working in the area of child abuse and neglect, from Yale Medical Center and the Department of Children and Youth Services, were compared. Case vignettes were used to examine the relationships between a series of judgments about the cases described in the vignettes. Dependent variables are the perception and judgment of the social workers. Independent variables are characteristics of the social worker, such as: education, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, children, socio-economic status, time in the field, personal experience with corporal punishment, and working experiences in child abuse.;Thirty social workers from the Hospital and thirty from the Department of Children and Youth Services responded to the questionnaire.;Adaptation-level theory, information-integration theory and deviance theory provide a model for studying what factors contributed to the decision-making. Adaptation-level theory focuses on the variations in judgments about sensory stimuli. Information-integration theory focuses on the general rules for processing information and making judgments. It takes into account the role of the judges along with the interaction. Deviance theory suggests that the problem of child abuse might be viewed as a form of social deviance and labeling. How the judge determines who is a child abuser is a decision-making process. Workers' personal characteristics, such as those listed above, account for some variance in the decisions that are made. These factors, however, vary because of the setting that the worker is in when the decision is being made. These variables were considered through comparison of two study samples: the medical setting and the protective services setting.;This research model used practice case vignettes for analyzing judgments in child abuse. The model has implications for other medical and public child welfare agencies by providing: (1) training for staff in decision-making in child abuse, and (2) classroom teaching in schools of social work for both BSW and MSW students. These could enhance social workers' skills and increase their knowledge in their practices in the area of child abuse.