Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • Social workers facing stress and the coping strategies they use: A secondary analysis

    Author:
    Nilde Leo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Irwin Epstein
    Abstract:

    In the immense literature on stress in healthcare, social workers have been poorly represented. This dissertation examines the relationship between stress, perception of stress at work (PSW), and coping strategies through the analysis of a secondary data gathered from a national sample of social workers participating in the NASW 2007 national survey. Several coping strategies (i.e., complimentary alternative medicine (CAM) or meditation/yoga, exercise, therapy/medication and avoidance) are examined as potential moderators of the relationship between stress and PSW. Results indicate that over 50% of social workers in this study report the experience of stress on the job and that the stress is significantly related to perceived organizational stressors and safety concerns at work. The literature in mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) research supports engagement in meditation and yoga as a means to reduce levels of overall stress. However, this was not supported by the current study. Bi-variate and multivariate analyses were conducted to explore the relationship between these variables and their association to stress. At the multivariate level, hierachical binary logistic regression indicated that CAM did not moderate the relationship between stress and PSW at a statistically significant level. However, an analysis of main effects did reveal that exercise held a negative association to stress while considering PSW. However, when safety concern was controlled for in the model, exercise no longer provided a buffering effect to stress in the presence of PSW. This study supports the notion that stress related to work conditions does indeed exist for practicing social workers and that the coping strategies they use are not providing enough of a relief from this stress. Further research related to organizational interventions and individual strategies to cope with stressors needs to be conducted in order to insure a healthier workforce.

  • INTERGROUP DIALOGUE: AN EVALUATION OF A PEDAGOGICAL MODEL FOR TEACHING CULTURAL COMPETENCE WITHIN A FRAMEWORK OF SOCIAL JUSTICE IN SOCIAL WORK PROGRAMS

    Author:
    Mayra Lopez-Humphreys
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Mimi Abramovitz
    Abstract:

    A quasi-experimental, non-equivalent comparison group design with pre, post and follow-up survey data was used to evaluate the effectiveness of an intergroup dialogue intervention on bachelor of social work (BSW) students' levels of cultural competence and social justice behaviors. The sample of convenience consisted of 115 who identified as social-work majors and participated in diversity courses, 76 were intergroup dialogue participants (Site IGD) and 39 were not (Site non-IGD). Five specific questions were explored in the study. All 115 participants completed Lum's (2007) Social Work Cultural Competencies Self-Assessment and the Confidence in Confronting Injustice Sub-Scale (Multi-University Intergroup Dialogue Research project Guidebook, n.d.) at the beginning and end of the course. Intergroup dialogue participants also completed Nagda, Kim, and Truelove's (2005) Enlightenment and Encounter scale at the end of the course, as well the Roper's Political Questions and the Confidence in Confronting Injustice Sub-Scale at the end of the course and one year later. The students who received the intergroup dialogue model displayed significantly greater improvement in the cultural competence area of awareness than students who did not receive the intervention. Students who received the intergroup dialogue model also showed a significant increase in social justice behavioral outcomes a year after course participation. The cultural competence area of knowledge acquisition showed change scores that were greater than Non-IGD participants, although not at a significant level. Lastly, mean confidence in confronting social justice changes scores were also higher for the IGD group, although the differences were not significant. The study offers empirical research in determining effective teaching strategies for improved cultural competence within a social justice framework, highlighting the intergroup dialogue model. The data suggests that through enhanced educational experiences with models of intergroup dialogue, levels of culturally competence and social justice behavioral outcomes among social work students will improve.

  • Mothers' perceptions of their bonding process with their first children

    Author:
    Susan McConnaughy
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Darrell Wheeler
    Abstract:

    The child's attachment to the parent has been thoroughly studied over the past six decades with rich findings that have guided the child development field. However, the mother's bond to her child has received scant attention, even from attachment researchers (George & Solomon, 1999). When parents have been studied, it has been primarily to determine how they facilitate their children's attachment to them. The current study was proposed to articulate aspects of maternal bonding that are not well-articulated in the current literature and to provide a framework for intervention in early parent-child relationships. There was a strong rationale for using qualitative research methodology because it was not possible to verify or disprove theory at this time. This is a theory-driven qualitative study which has the primary purpose of improving our understanding of how maternal bonding happens. In this study, twelve first-time mothers were interviewed twice in individual sixty minute sessions when their children were three years old. A standardized open-ended interview guide was used to steer the mothers through questions about their bonding experiences from pregnancy to the present. The primary limitations of the study derived from the small sample size and the homogeneity of the sample. Still some illuminating findings were made. (a) About half of the mothers reported that they bonded immediately at first contact with their babies or during pregnancy, while another half of the mothers reported that they bonded gradually over the first two years. (b) Nearly all of the mothers (n=10) experienced fear or panic at first contact with the newborn regarding taking on the responsibility of sustaining the life of the child. (c) Mothers cited different types of relatedness as leading to a bond or as evidence of the bond. (d) Most of the mothers (n=10) reported that there was a point in time in which they understood that they were &ldquofully bonded&rdquo: when they felt they were fully giving themselves to the child and would forever. This research could make direct contributions to social work practice in parent education and counseling; clinical assessment and intervention; program design and evaluation; and child welfare policy.

  • SIBLING ABUSE: UNDERSTANDING DEVELOPMENTAL CONSEQUENCES THROUGH OBJECT RELATIONS, FAMILY SYSTEMS, AND RESILIENCY THEORIES

    Author:
    Amy Meyers
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Harriet Goodman
    Abstract:

    This phenomenological qualitative study explored childhood and adolescent sibling abuse among adult survivors. The original intent was to explore informant's perceptions of the effects of sibling abuse on their adult relationships. However, the study revealed significant findings beyond adult informant's relatedness. Although some claim sibling abuse occurs more frequently than parent-child or spousal abuse, data tracking its incidence is unavailable. Therefore, it remains overlooked as normative sibling rivalry. Based on informants' descriptions of their abuse, I distinguished sibling abuse as a distinct phenomenon with devastating childhood consequences and repercussions in self-concept and relatedness which extend into adulthood. In addition, this study provides rich description of the phenomenon of sibling abuse. Because no theoretically driven research about sibling relationships and object relations, family systems, and emerging theories of risk and resilience exist, this study incorporated sibling abuse into a developmental understanding of personality using these theoretical lenses. Methods included recruitment of through flyers posted in colleges, graduate schools, local Y's, and churches in addition to an advertisement in a professional social work newsletter. This yielded a sample of 19 self-identified survivors of sibling abuse, 15 female and four male. All subjects were over age 21 and once screened for a history of childhood or adolescent sibling abuse, participated in in-person in-depth interviews. I constructed an original interview guide informed by sensitizing concepts from the work of Weihe (1997). Findings indicated sibling abuse put children at grave risk for physical and psychological injury. Additionally, the abusive sibling relationship affected perception of self and others into adulthood. Informants expressed problems establishing relationships both as children and as adults. Parent-child abuse was present many cases and modeled detrimental methods of communication. Informants expressed resilience through establishing relationships outside the home as children and through successful career achievement as adults. Implications for this study include the need for child welfare workers to identify children at risk for sibling abuse. Mental health practitioners need heightened awareness of risk factors, symptoms, and devastating repercussions of sibling abuse. Limitations of the study include a homogeneous sample. This suggests the need for similar research with more demographically diverse samples.

  • ReCONNECTING TO RESILIENCE: A HISTORICAL STUDY OF SLAVE NARRATIVES WITH IMPLICATIONS FOR SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE WITH AFRICAN AMERICAN YOUTH FROM HIGH RISK ENVIRONMENTS

    Author:
    Barbara Milton II
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Stephen Burghardt
    Abstract:

    "ReConnecting to Historical Resilience" A HISTORICAL STUDY OF SLAVE NARRATIVES WITH IMPLICATIONS FOR SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE WITH AFRICAN AMERICAN YOUTH FROM HIGH RISK ENVIRONMENTS. by Barbara E. Milton, II Adviser: Professor Stephen Burghardt The often times high risk environment of African American youth negatively impacts their psychological well being, their family relations and community connections. Many African American youth today are experiencing the vestiges of historical trauma that took root in America in the 17th Century when the first Africans came to America. As a result of generational transmission of historical trauma, many youths today are disproportionately underachieving in education, disproportionately poor, disproportionately monitored by police and incarcerated and disproportionately disrespected by the society at large. In order to reduce the disparity of contemporary problems effecting African American youth, social scientists need to discover a wider array of protective factors to promote resilience in the face of overwhelming exposure to historical trauma and its attendant environmental risks and deleterious consequences. The researcher uses historical lenses and methodology to explore protective factors used by 100 former African American slaves to increase our understanding of ways to strengthen resiliency for the adolescent progeny of the African American slave today. The stories of over two thousand emancipated slaves are archived in the Library of Congress in the collection of written interviews known as the Federal Writers Project Slave Narratives. According to Thomas v Soapes (1977), two thirds of those interviewed were age fifteen or younger at the time emancipation; almost all of the remainder were in their late teens or twenties in 1865. The data analysis process yielded the discovery of sixteen (16) protective factors related to the survival story of the slave. The researcher discusses the findings of historical protective factors in the context of historical trauma and other residuals of chattel slavery evident in contemporary society. The researcher introduces an analysis of internal and external connections for resilience as well as puts forwards an analysis of limitations of the study. The last chapter provides a theoretical application of the findings of historical protective factors to contemporary social work practice with African American youth, families and the community. Additionally, the last chapter offers implications for culturally competent social work practice with at-risk African American youth and suggestions for future research.

  • Strengths and Weaknesses of the US-Based Refugee Resettlement Program: As Survey of International Rescue Committee Employee Perceptions

    Author:
    Jennifer Mincin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Irwin Epstein
    Abstract:

    The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is among nine agencies in the United States that resettles refugees. There are two core national resettlement programs: the State Department's Reception and Placement (R&P and the Health and Human Services' (HHS) Matching Grant (MG). These two programs largely have been designed to accomplish refugee self-sufficiency by way of early employment programming and services. Resettlement agencies, such as the IRC, are now beginning to initiate other program areas aside from early employment such as health and wellness, children and youth, and other concepts of financial literacy and economic empowerment. This staff self-sufficiency study surveyed IRC field staff, known in this dissertation as "employees," to gain a better understanding of the efficacy and effectiveness of the U.S. resettlement program and as a way to consider more integrative concepts of programs and program evaluation. There is a dearth of empirical research, data, and analysis regarding resettlement programs based in the U.S. and especially in regard to understanding employee perceptions. Therefore, this study is one approach to better understanding, capturing, and tracking (through a database and analysis) meaningful information regarding services provided to refugees in the U.S. The overall study finding is that IRC employees see self-sufficiency as incorporating early and long-term employment, financial understanding (such as knowing financial management), the ability to advocate for oneself, self-reliance, and non-dependence on government assistance. Further, IRC employees appear to believe in an integrated approach to working with refugees and service provision. Based on the findings from the study and the literature review, the dissertation recommends practice, research, and advocacy to expand the current definition of refugee self-sufficiency, gather more quantifiable information on the current resettlement program, build stronger data tracking and program evaluation, and support program growth. This process has already begun to be embraced at the IRC.

  • A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY OF AGENDA FOR CHILDREN TOMORROW'S ROLE AND PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES IN TWO COMPREHENSIVE COMMUNITY INITIATIVES, BROWNSVILLE-EAST NEW YORK AND BUSHWICK

    Author:
    Nina Moreno
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Irwin Epstein
    Abstract:

    Recent studies of community-based organizations suggest the need for more qualitative/ descriptive accounts of organizations such as Agenda for Children Tomorrow (ACT). ACT is intended to function as an effective social, political, and economic capital building agent, on multiple levels, for low-income children and families throughout New York City. This qualitative study, utilizing phenomenological methodology, seeks to describe and conceptualize ACT's role and primary responsibilities in the change goals (at the individual, family, neighborhood, and systems levels) and outcomes, central principles (i.e., comprehensiveness and community building), and operational strategies (i.e., governance, funding, staffing, technical assistance, evaluation, and program development) of two Brooklyn-based comprehensive community efforts: Brownville-East New York and Bushwick. In addition to observing meetings and reviewing agency documents, interviews were conducted with partners from Brownsville-East New York and Bushwick as well as partners from the government, foundation, and policy advocacy arenas. Interviews were also conducted with current and previous ACT staff. Grounded theory methodology was utilized in this cross-case content analysis of the interviews. Meanings of ACT's role and primary responsibilities in the aforementioned areas of the comprehensive community efforts emerged from this analysis. Cross-community analysis of meanings revealed similarities and differences between each group of stakeholders in their understanding of ACT and their activities in Brownsville-East New York and Bushwick's comprehensive community-building initiatives. Implications of this study for future social work research, including the development of an evaluation model, were discussed.

  • Studying and facilitating the development, installation and initial implementation of an interdisciplinary buprenorphine treatment/practice: A practice-focused, action research, implementation study.

    Author:
    Nancy Murphy
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Mimi Abramovitz
    Abstract:

    Using Action Research, Implementation Science, and Institutional Ethnography, this practice-focused research explored inhibiting and promoting factors related to implementing buprenorphine treatment within HIV primary care while simultaneously developing, installing and initially implementing an interdisciplinary buprenorphine treatment/practice. Data was collected and analyzed using constructivist grounded theory method strategies. Data collection/generation included documentary analysis, key informant interviews, field data from collaborative interdisciplinary team processes, researcher reflective practice, a patient focus group, and an interdisciplinary buprenorphine treatment/practice manual. The research had several achievements. It identified three key implementation inhibiting categories, (1) significant and persistent bias, (2) plaguing and difficult questions, and (3) buprenorphine expectionalism. It also developed countering implementation promoting categories, (1) be an educated advocate and dispel myths, (2) identify core components of interdisciplinary buprenorphine treatment and uniformity of care, and (3) dementionalizing interdisciplinary treatment/practice. It exposed scope of practice issues and mapped out the specifics of the types of services each discipline would provide, the detail of those practices, their coordination, as well as the areas of practice where there was joint responsibility and overlap. It increased the capacity and competences of the research organization and the 18 interdisciplinary buprenorphine team members. It also explicated the many forms of power operating in the study and the importance of power sharing, adapting treatment, leadership support, structural components and resources on the development and implementation process. This study shed light on the reality that prescribing buprenorphine and taking up the practice of treating opioid dependence/addiction means that clinicians must be prepared and skilled to provide care where issues of life and death, emotional distress, and significant uncertainties are part of the landscape. The study findings also highlight that balancing safety (both patient and staff) with control and authority is an important aspect of buprenorphine treatment. An interdisciplinary focus expanded the concept of treatment and addressed many important aspects of caring for people with opioid dependence/addiction that often go unaccounted for and/or unnoticed. Without an interdisciplinary frame, patients are at risk for receiving substandard care. This study demonstrated that the interdisciplinary practices needed to provide quality care and improve health outcomes are interdependent.

  • A Study of Predictors of College Completion Among SEEK Immigrant Students

    Author:
    Marie Nazon
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Elizabeth Danto
    Abstract:

    This study examined the strength of the relationship between eight situational and demographic variables and college completion among immigrant students in SEEK, an educational opportunity program. The eight variables studied as possible predictors of college completion included household composition, length of residency, English as a primary language, high school grade point average, age, gender, ethnicity, and year of entry. In addition, the study compared graduation rate of SEEK immigrant students admitted earlier in the program (1995-2000) versus those who entered later (2001-2003) when the admission criteria were changed. The study took place at the City College of New York (CCNY), a four-year, urban, public institution which is a branch of The City University of New York (CUNY). The study focused on the overarching question of are selected factors predictors of college completion among SEEK immigrant students? The conclusions of this archival quantitative study were based on data from a sample of 390 SEEK immigrant students. Data was collected from the SEEK City College admission application form which provided pre-existing, multi-year information on student background characteristics and graduation status. Results from chi-square, t-test and regression analysis suggested that four out of the eight pre-enrollment variables are useful in discriminating between completers and non-completers. High school GPA was the strongest predictor of college completion. Household composition, year of entry and gender also seem to have significant effects on college completion. It is notable that completers have a significantly higher GPA than non completers. Students who entered CCNY as members of the later cohort, enrolling in 2001 or after when the CUNY admission requirements became more selective, had a higher high school GPA and were more likely to graduate. The results also indicate that students who came from a large family household were more likely to complete than students from nuclear families. To some extent the study concluded that what students come into college with influences whether they complete college. Other pre-enrollment variables ( e.g. age, English as a primary language and length of residency) did not seem to significantly effect college completion in this sample.Overall, the study provided an initial and important exploration of some of the pre-enrollment factors that are associated with college success and therefore upward mobility among immigrant students. The implication of the study is that some pre-enrollment background characteristics effect college completion and should be taken into account in counseling theory, practice and policy. Based on the findings of the study, programmatic interventions were suggested to address the needs of this specific population

  • The Presentation of Trans in Everyday Life: An Autoethnographic Exploration of Gendered Performance

    Author:
    Elijah Nealy
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Irwin Epstein
    Abstract:

    The life experiences of transgender men are an understudied area in social work research. Given the negative experiences many transgender men have utilizing the medical and social service systems, greater understanding is needed about how these men negotiate their identities in an array of relational contexts. This dissertation uses autoethnography to explore how one transgender man navigates his identity as a man, father, and social work professional. Viewed through the theoretical frame of Erving Goffman's work, and in dialogue with masculinities studies and queer theory, this study finds that trans men are continually negotiating their identities in varying relational contexts, even post transition. They face ongoing choices about self disclosure. Transgender men face constant challenges to their masculinity, even to their humanity. Transgender fathers challenge traditional notions of parenting. Out social work professionals face these complexities even among colleagues. Despite this, transgender men are remarkably resilient and find numerous ways to surmount the impact of stigma. Practice implications include acknowledging the challenges to a trans man's masculinity while helping him place it is the broader context of manhood in America, providing support for the many ways he is continually navigating his identity, creating opportunities for transgender fathers to connect and share resources, and nurturing the varied ways trans men thrive in the midst of pervasive stigma.