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Making a difference: female social workers’ lives and identities - a biographical study

Making a difference: female social workers’ lives and identities - a biographical study
Making a difference: female social workers’ lives and identities - a biographical study
This thesis investigates the motivations of female social workers in their decision to embark on the study of and work in the profession. The thesis also offers some recommendations for the education of social workers. The historical emergence of social work as a profession and the role women have played in shaping the profession and building traditions, in the United Kingdom, are explored. The biographies of some significant women, the ‘early pioneers’ of social work, are reviewed (albeit succinctly) to ascertain their motivation to help and make a difference in the lives of other people. The hypothesis that women are socialised into a caring role by the patriarchal structures of society is discussed as a possible explanation as to why the social work profession consists predominantly of women. A small-scale research project, which utilises a mixed-method approach from a feminist standpoint and an auto/biographical paradigm, investigates the biographies and motivational factors of female social work students and women social workers. In an endeavour to find some tradition-building factors which might predict women’s engagement with social work, the socio-economic and demographical data from the early pioneers and the research project’s cohorts are taken into consideration. Furthermore, the categories of ‘social justice fighter’ (Adams et al. 2002; Thompson 2002), and ‘wounded helper’ (Brandon 1976; Charon 2006; Frank 1995) are introduced with the intention to ascertain whether there are common factors which influence women’s wish to help others and their choice to become social workers. The preliminary findings of the thesis suggest that financial gain is not the main stimulus for women becoming social workers, but that altruistic motives and the idea of social justice influences their career choice. The research findings further suggest that life experiences (positive as well as negative) influence the decision to become a social worker. The findings in the thesis are compared and discussed with similar studies in the field (Parker and Merrylees 2002, Redmond et al. 2008, Stevens et al. 2012).

Summarising, the thesis proposes recommendations for social work education and the curriculum:

- a thorough selection process that investigates the personality, moral values and the motivation of social work entrants by using biographical interviews and narratives;

- reflective and analytical processes are required to be an integral part of the curriculum, thus facilitating students to address any latent emotional and/or traumatic life experience which otherwise might lead to detrimental transference in the social work interaction with clients;

- a deconstruction of gender issues and perceptions as part of the curriculum thereby encouraging more men to enter social work as students, lecturers and professionals;

- a pro-active promotion of a more positive image of social workers should be on the curriculum with the aim of altering public perception of the social work profession.
Veale, Francisca
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Veale, Francisca
e6e69302-33d5-439e-94e8-9b9576842e4b
Erben, Michael
5c72b25b-7c00-409d-a850-1a7654be0858

(2012) Making a difference: female social workers’ lives and identities - a biographical study. University of Southampton, School of Education, Doctoral Thesis, 340pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

This thesis investigates the motivations of female social workers in their decision to embark on the study of and work in the profession. The thesis also offers some recommendations for the education of social workers. The historical emergence of social work as a profession and the role women have played in shaping the profession and building traditions, in the United Kingdom, are explored. The biographies of some significant women, the ‘early pioneers’ of social work, are reviewed (albeit succinctly) to ascertain their motivation to help and make a difference in the lives of other people. The hypothesis that women are socialised into a caring role by the patriarchal structures of society is discussed as a possible explanation as to why the social work profession consists predominantly of women. A small-scale research project, which utilises a mixed-method approach from a feminist standpoint and an auto/biographical paradigm, investigates the biographies and motivational factors of female social work students and women social workers. In an endeavour to find some tradition-building factors which might predict women’s engagement with social work, the socio-economic and demographical data from the early pioneers and the research project’s cohorts are taken into consideration. Furthermore, the categories of ‘social justice fighter’ (Adams et al. 2002; Thompson 2002), and ‘wounded helper’ (Brandon 1976; Charon 2006; Frank 1995) are introduced with the intention to ascertain whether there are common factors which influence women’s wish to help others and their choice to become social workers. The preliminary findings of the thesis suggest that financial gain is not the main stimulus for women becoming social workers, but that altruistic motives and the idea of social justice influences their career choice. The research findings further suggest that life experiences (positive as well as negative) influence the decision to become a social worker. The findings in the thesis are compared and discussed with similar studies in the field (Parker and Merrylees 2002, Redmond et al. 2008, Stevens et al. 2012).

Summarising, the thesis proposes recommendations for social work education and the curriculum:

- a thorough selection process that investigates the personality, moral values and the motivation of social work entrants by using biographical interviews and narratives;

- reflective and analytical processes are required to be an integral part of the curriculum, thus facilitating students to address any latent emotional and/or traumatic life experience which otherwise might lead to detrimental transference in the social work interaction with clients;

- a deconstruction of gender issues and perceptions as part of the curriculum thereby encouraging more men to enter social work as students, lecturers and professionals;

- a pro-active promotion of a more positive image of social workers should be on the curriculum with the aim of altering public perception of the social work profession.

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More information

Published date: July 2012
Organisations: University of Southampton, Southampton Education School

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 340977
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/340977
PURE UUID: 333c4569-49de-4c28-aa3b-45bd0101edaa

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Date deposited: 03 Sep 2012 13:53
Last modified: 31 May 2018 16:31

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