Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF RACIAL AND ETHNIC IDENTITY AMONG WOMEN OF COLOR FROM MIXED ANCESTRY: PSYCHOLOGICAL FREEDOMS AND SOCIOLOGICAL CONSTRAINTS

    Author:
    Laura Quiros
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Mimi Abramovitz
    Abstract:

    In the context of the 21st century, when an increasing number of people cannot be classified by an archaic system based on race, an awareness of the complexities of ethnic and racial identity is more important than ever. This study assists in the development of a critical understanding of the complexity of racial and ethnic identity by exploring the construction of racial and ethnic identity among women of color from mixed ancestry. These women are the offspring of parents from multiple racial and ethnic backgrounds. As a result, their identities--both internally and externally constructed--belie traditional racial and ethnic categories. This population faces unique struggles, as identified in the empirical literature and supported by the data analysis. Women of color from mixed heritages: have been assigned monolithic labels based primarily on their physical appearance; may feel pressured to adopt a single and predetermined ethnic or racial label; and are often researched as one ethnic or racial group. Furthermore, scholars agree that institutional racism has been a constricting force in the construction of identity and identification for ethnic groups of color in the United States. This study is important because women of color are not always comfortable with the ascribed identity, particularly when it is based on faulty characterizations and when their ethnicity is overlooked. Additionally, this study brings insight to the psychological and social impact of socially constructed identifications. This study regards race and ethnicity as social constructions, defined by human beings and given meaning in the context of family, community, and society. As such, women of color from mixed ancestry find themselves in the middle of the psychological freedoms and sociological constraints of identity construction within the dominant society. As a result, they develop management techniques for integrating components of self and for managing the freedoms and constraints in social constructions of race and ethnicity. This is a subject of pivotal importance to multiple fields of inquiry as well as one having significant educational, clinical, and programmatic implications. Among the implications for social work practice and pedagogy are the need for critical reflection, increased awareness, and cultural diversity.

  • Filipino Women Domestics on an International Economic Mission: A Multi Method, Data-Mining Study

    Author:
    Sanjana Ragudaran
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Irwin Epstein
    Abstract:

    Abstract FILIPINO WOMEN DOMESTICS ON AN INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC MISSION: A MULTI METHOD, DATA-MINING STUDY By Sanjana Ragudaran Adviser: Irwin Epstein This dissertation explored factors contributing towards intentions of return migration of female Filipino domestic workers. Based on available data, I also addressed the reason for migration, individuals' domestic work experiences in the United States and their connection to the homeland during their absence. This was a multi methods study with a combination of Clinical Data Mining and Secondary Analysis in which the data was made available by The Urban Justice Center and Damayan Migrant Workers Association. This study drew from 182 self-administered survey respondents, 22 individual interviews and 4 focus groups of female Filipino domestic workers. In the research, convenience, snowball and purposeful sampling as well as quantitative and qualitative analysis were employed. Findings from the survey data revealed that over half (N=110, 63.9%) of these women migrated primarily for financial reasons, to support their families. Majority (N=132, 74.6%) entered the United States with a Tourist Visa and many (N=96, 61.5%) reported having no legal status. Their lives in the United States have been challenging as domestic work is unregulated and therefore, women had negative experiences. In addition to an unfulfilling job, women maintained minimalist lives and shared accommodation. By doing so, 93 (65%) remitted 30% or more of their income. During their time away from home, women also spoke of the negative impact their absence has had on themselves and their loved ones. When discussing return intentions, 99 (59.6%) women reported wanting to return. Seventeen of twenty-two (77.3%) individual interviewees and 29 (93.5%) Focus Group participants indicated that they had return intentions. Due to the multi-methods nature of this study, I did not draw my conclusions solely from the quantitative data. The qualitative data revealed that although they seemed to initially be "target" migrants, despite their return intentions many continued to work as domestic workers solely because there was a continuing need to support their families financially. The "dream" of return at retirement was echoed in qualitative data where women spoke regretfully about working until they could work no more. I conclude this study with a discussion on policy, service and future research implications.

  • Exploring Pathways to Independence A Data Mining Study To Research Predictors of Long-Term Stay Among Homeless Men In The New York City Family Shelter System

    Author:
    Louis Rodriguez
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Irwin Epstein
    Abstract:

    This research used a clinical data mining study to examine long-term stays of 811 homeless men in the New York City family shelter system. The overall goal of the project was to examine what predictors influenced long-term stay defined as more than 291 days in shelter. Survival analysis was used to measure how long it took for men to discharge from shelter. Cox regresion analysis was used to assess whether predictor variables influenced length of stay of men in the sample. Data was collected from administrative records. There were several key findings. Discharge patterns among the men slowed after 400 days in shelter. Exit disposition, age and family size were among the best predictors of long-term stay. Old men took longer time to discharge from shelter as compared to young men in the sample. Homeless men in large families also took longer to discharge from shelter as compared to men in small families. Efforts should be made to accomodate the service needs of large families. These families, identified at intake, need more support than others in finding housing, completing applications for housing, and minimizing barriers to relocation from shelter.

  • Looking back: Young adult women reflect on perceptions of their mothers' experiences with domestic violence

    Author:
    Julie Ross
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Manny Gonzalez
    Abstract:

    Abstract LOOKING BACK: YOUNG ADULT WOMEN REFLECT ON PERCEPTIONS OF THEIR MOTHERS' EXPERIENCES WITH DOMESTIC VIOLENCE By Julie Ross Adviser: Professor Manny J. Gonzalez This qualitative study examined the lives of emerging adult women who were exposed to domestic violence during childhood or adolescence within their families of origin. The primary aim of the study was to describe the ways in which young women perceive and make sense of the domestic violence that their mothers have experienced. At this time it is not clearly understood how or why some young women develop a healthy resistance to the effects of childhood exposure to domestic violence, while others do not. The research sought to contribute to an understanding of developmental outcomes of exposure to domestic violence, with an emphasis on resiliency. Fifteen emerging adult women between the ages of 18 and 25 participated in in-depth interviews to illuminate the ways in which they created meaning for themselves of the physical and sexual violence or emotional abuse that their mothers experienced or were experiencing presently. Recruited from a domestic violence shelter and college campuses, participants were the daughters of racially, ethnically and culturally diverse parents and for the large majority, immigration to the United States was an important though unanticipated phenomenon. Through the use of life maps, the study explored important turning points in the women's lives, their resources for coping with childhood and adolescent adversity, their strengths and accomplishments, their losses and their abilities to form relationships as young adults, as well as their present psychosocial functioning. The findings indicated that the young women coped with an array of adverse environmental stressors that included homelessness, poverty, parental substance abuse, child maltreatment and actual abandonment, in addition to their exposure to domestic violence. Although memories of their mothers' abuse evoke strong emotions that remain in the forefront of their consciousness, the young women showed a drive toward health, an internal quest not to be a victim and to seek mastery. Factors that contributed to their resiliency included optimism, withstanding and repudiation of the violence, acceptance of one's parents' limitations, having faith in one's decision making and taking ownership of their experiences. Academic success, extracurricular activities, writing and creative pursuits, and the ability to make strong interpersonal connections outside their immediate families were emotionally sustaining and adaptive. Despite growing up in atmospheres of terror and vigilance, the women persevered through challenging moments and emerged with clear and compelling voices. Many were consumed at an early age with adult responsibilities that may have contributed to their competency. However, liability remains and during emerging adulthood, a large number of the women were struggling with conflicts about and avoidance of intimate relationships and the emotional fallout within their families. A startling finding was that few women had benefitted from treatment during childhood or adolescence in spite of attempts to connect with therapists in the past. Yet, as emerging adult women, they were focused on healing and for some, the narratives they created through the life map process signified a first disclosure of their troubles. In light of the women's need to have their stories listened to, implications for social work intervention that uses a long-term relational model are discussed, at a time when the profession embraces evidence-based treatment models.

  • PREPARATION FOR PRACTICE: A SURVEY OF SOCIAL WORKERS' PERCEPTIONS OF THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THEIR GRADUATE CURRICULUM FOR CONFLICT RESOLUTION/MEDIATION PRACTICE

    Author:
    Susan Sanchirico
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Michael Smith
    Abstract:

    This study investigated the perceptions of social work mediators about the effectiveness of their graduate curriculum for conflict resolution/mediation practice. The study is based on a sample of 78 social work mediators from various regions in the United States. The respondents completed a questionnaire on curricula items, education, training and professional practice. The median age of participants was 46.0. The research questions related to gaps in the curriculum and knowledge, skills, and abilities required for practicing conflict resolution/mediation; additional training/education required to achieve competency; and whether the tasks of conflict resolution/mediation are viewed as generalist social work tasks or specialist conflict resolution tasks. Findings revealed that upon completion of their graduate social work education, the majority of the participants (89.7%, n=69) did not feel they were prepared to practice conflict resolution/mediation without additional training. Participants completed basic mediation training in a variety of settings and continued training in advanced specialty areas. Advanced training specializations reflect similar areas of social work practice: divorce, child custody, family, children and youth, education/school, workplace and forensics. The competency scale addressed the knowledge/skills/abilities issue of generalist vs. specialist. An unexpected finding was that 32 of 38 listed competencies, at some level, were thought to be generic skills for all social workers for a total of 86%. Correlation data revealed no relationships between a number of the socio-demographic variables and the preparation for conflict resolution/mediation practice. However, some relationships were found with specific curricula and competency areas. To conclude, the study revealed that social workers perceptions' of their graduate school curriculum did not prepare them for conflict resolution/mediation practice. Although they received the foundation for conflict resolution/mediation practice in their social work program, they gained the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities through a variety of conflict resolution/mediation training programs over a period of time. Social work mediators selected a large number of competencies that are identified as more conflict resolution/mediation specific as skills required for generalist social workers. Therefore, additional research is necessary to understand if this is a professional bias of social work mediators or consistent with the perceptions of a generalist social worker.

  • Prevalence, Predictors and Negative Outcomes Associated With Discordant Sexual Identity, Sexual Attraction and Sexual Behavior

    Author:
    Andrew Schmidt
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Sarah Jane Dodd
    Abstract:

    PREVALENCE, PREDICTORS AND NEGATIVE OUTCOMES ASSOCIATED WITH DISCORDANT SEXUAL IDENTITY, SEXUAL ATTRACTION AND SEXUAL BEHAVIOR This study assessed the prevalence, predictors and negative outcomes associated with discordant sexual identity in a national US sample of men and women who identified as heterosexual. Results were based on data collected from the 2004-2005 (wave 2) of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). The NESARC is a national sample of 34,653 adults aged 20 years and older comprised of 52% female, 71% white, 12% Hispanic, 11% African American, 4% Asian and 2% Native American. The prevalence of same sex orientation ranged from 1.41% to 6% in men and 1.35% to 8% in women. Of those who identified as heterosexual, women were statistically more likely to be discordant than men, yet discordance was common in both men and women (4.28% and 6.21% respectively). Discordant men had increased odds of being Black, over the age of 65, widowed, less educated, unemployed, and earning a lower individual and family income. Discordant women had increased odds of being Asian, foreign born, over the age of 65, widowed, unemployed, and earning a lower family income. Men with discordant attraction and behavior were 4 times less likely to meet criteria for alcohol use disorder but men with discordant attraction alone were 6 times more likely to have tested positive for HIV. Discordant men did not have increased risk of any other outcomes. Negative outcomes in discordant women far outweighed negative outcomes in men. Every group of discordant women demonstrated increased risk of alcohol related disorders. Risk of alcohol disorders in discordant women varied by subgroup with the greatest risk found in those with discordant sexual behavior and attraction and the least risk found in those with discordant sexual attraction alone. Some discordant women demonstrated significant risk of HIV infection and increased odds of infection ranged from 2.7 to 5.67. Overall, predictors and negative outcomes varied within each subgroup. Results highlight gender and discordant subgroup differences indicating the need for specialized prevention and intervention efforts to each subgroup. Future research should investigate all dimensions of sexual orientation and discordance to identify subgroups in need of specialized prevention and intervention efforts.

  • There's no place like home? The experiences of unstably housed transgender and gender non-conforming young people

    Author:
    Jama Shelton
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    S.J. Dodd
    Abstract:

    The purpose of this project is to expand knowledge about the lived experience of unstably housed transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) young people in order to inform programs and policies meant to address their needs and to contribute to the broader conversation regarding gender identity. Specifically, this project will generate new knowledge on the subject of housing instability among TGNC young people through an analysis of the youth's spoken and visual narratives about the meaning they assign to their gender identity and their experiences of housing instability. The goals of this exploratory project are: 1) to document the meaning and significance of gender identity/expression for unstably housed TGNC young people, 2) to examine the interplay between gender identity and the experience of housing instability among TGNC young people, with particular attention to the role that stability/instability plays in the reconfiguration of identity among TGNC young people. The knowledge gained from this project has the potential to inform social work practice on multiple levels, including program development, clinical and public policy interventions, and the broader discourse regarding what it means to be transgender or gender non-conforming as well as the shifting definition and impact of homelessness. The data collection methods employed in this qualitative inquiry include semi-structured interviews and the visual method of mapping with TGNC young people who have experienced housing instability. NVivo9 was utilized for data management and storage. The heuristic process of phenomenological inquiry guided analysis. The sample included 27 self-identified TGNC young people between the ages of 18 and 25 who have experienced housing instability within the past 18 months, but who are not currently without shelter at the time of the interview. The sample includes young people who identify as transgender men and women, in addition to those who do not identify as transgender but whose gender identity and expression are self-identified as different from traditional gender norms. Participants were recruited via study announcements posted in community spaces where LGBTQ young people congregate.

  • Cafeteria, Commissary and Cooking: Foodways and Negotiations of Power and Identity in a Women's Prison

    Author:
    Amy Smoyer
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Deborah Tolman
    Abstract:

    This study uses foodways theory to build knowledge about the lived experience of incarceration by analyzing women's narratives about prison food and eating. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 formerly incarcerated women in New Haven, CT. The interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed. Findings explain the different ways that inmates collect, prepare, distribute and consume food, and the centrality of these activities to incarcerated life. By shedding light on these daily routines, the world of prison life comes into greater focus. Thematic analysis of the data further illuminates the prison experience by suggesting the positive and negative ways that food impacts inmate's perceptions of themselves, their social networks and the State. Negative foodways humiliated the women, accentuated their powerlessness, and reinforced their perceptions of the State as nonsensical and apathetic towards their needs. Positive foodways illustrated the inmates' capacity to resist State power, build/maintain relationships and construct positive self-narratives. Racialized foodways narratives began to reveal how food stories may be deployed to reinforce prison's racial character and construct the identities of self and other. Foodways interventions to support the rehabilitative goals of correctional facilities are proposed. These data suggest that inmates want to build positive relationships and identities and that prison food systems could do more to help women realize these intentions.

  • SOCIAL WORK ADMINISTERED HYPNOSIS FOR PATIENTS UNDERGOING BONE MARROW PROCEDURES: A RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

    Author:
    Alison Snow
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Irwin Epstein
    Abstract:

    SOCIAL WORK ADMINISTERED HYPNOSIS FOR PATIENTS UNDERGOING BONE MARROW PROCEDURES: A RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL by Alison Snow Advisor: Professor Irwin Epstein This dissertation examines how a social work intervention of brief hypnosis during bone marrow procedures impacts pain and anxiety for adult patients. The study design was a randomized controlled trial with one intervention group and one control group (standard of care). Standard of care (lidocaine injection) was provided to both groups. Adult participants were eligible for participation in this study if they were over eighteen years of age, English speaking, and undergoing bone marrow biopsy and/or aspiration. Study hypotheses predicted that those patients who were randomized to the hypnosis intervention would have significantly lower levels of pain and anxiety. A sample of patients at Mount Sinai Medical Center (n = 80) provided data, which included demographic information. There were 41 patients in the intervention group and 39 in the control group. Results supported the study hypothesis that pain scores would be significantly lower among the experimental group; however, results did not support the hypothesis that hypnosis reduced anxiety associated with the procedure. Pain and anxiety were not significantly associated to demographic variables, such as, gender, ethnicity and age. Participants could not be blinded to the intervention, since the social worker was present during the procedure if the patient received hypnosis. However, the social worker administering the post procedure scales was blinded to what group the patient was randomized to. There were no adverse events or side effects as a result of participation in this study. The unusual role of the social worker as the direct provider and the researcher will be discussed as well as the implications for practice. Funding was provided by the American Cancer Society: Doctoral Training Grant in Oncology Social Work, DSW-10-096-02-SW

  • Promoting Feast or Surviving Famine: The Financial Implications of Social Enterprise for Nonprofit Human Service Organizations

    Author:
    Lisa Van Brackle
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Social Welfare
    Advisor:
    Irwin Epstein
    Abstract:

    PROMOTING FEAST OR SURVIVING FAMINE: THE FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS OF SOCIAL ENTERPRISE FOR NONPROFIT HUMAN SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS By Lisa Gale Van Brackle Advisor: Professor Irwin Epstein Increasingly, social workers and line staff of nonprofit organizations are engaged in the management of financial resources (Lohmann & Lohmann, 2008). Although the literature suggests that nonprofit organizations engage in market-based social enterprise activities to generate revenue, the financial consequences of social enterprise on nonprofit organizations is unexplored in the literature. This dissertation "data mines" (Epstein, 2010) the IRS 990 forms of 166 nonprofit organizations that are self identified operators of social enterprises to explore revenue, expenses, net assets and excess/deficits of nonprofits that engage in one or more industry affiliated social enterprises. Transaction cost and resource dependence theories are used to explore how intensity and diversity of social enterprise activity are reflected in the financial disposition of these organizations. The study's findings are mixed: there is evidence that intensity of social enterprise activities and the industries affiliated with this sample of largely human service based organizations both erode and contribute to increased organizational efficiency. Throughout the study, the ability to measure financial performance of nonprofits is a continuous challenge. However, Chang & Tuckman's (1991) financial vulnerability indices prove to be a useful tool to assess the financial condition of these organizations. Both the methodology and findings offer social workers and other students of nonprofit management tools to appreciate the financial levers with nonprofit organizations and insights into the financial structure of nonprofits that engage in social enterprise.