A study of the effects of elderly client gender, race, and socioeconomic status as influences of social workers attitudes towards, perceptions of problems and service delivery towards them

Barbara Anne Cowan, Fordham University

Abstract

The elderly require the availability of various types of service delivery mechanisms to effectively cope with issues and problems accompanying later life transitions when usual coping strategies falter. The resourcefulness of the elderly in resolving their problems based on intervention by professional or paraprofessional service providers is directly linked to their interaction with service delivery personnel, specifically social workers.^ This research is concerned with the characteristics of elderly clients (race, gender, SES) as influences of social worker assessments of their problems and subsequent service delivery decisions.^ A quasi-experimental design was used employing four versions each of two case vignettes (a male and a female) each of which was varied along the dimensions of race (black and white) and socioeconomic status (SES, high and low). The final sample consisted of 229 practicing social workers who responded to a mailed questionnaire, each of which included two brief case vignettes (high and low, black and white); a cover letter, and a Service Decision Inventory with selected service delivery decisions. The effects of the case vignettes, race and social class of the client on respondent intervention decisions were analyzed by use of t-tests and analysis of variance.^ Race, gender and SES of elderly clients each were shown to have varying effects on respondents' attitudes, perceptions of problems and subsequent service delivery decisions.^ Respondents had more positive feelings toward black females. They consistently found male elderly client problems to be more serious than the female elderly. The major finding, however, was that respondents judged low SES client's problems more negatively than high SES client's (8 of 13 items on the questionnaire).^ The consistently negative judgments of respondents regarding low SES clients establishes in this study that social workers' attitudes affect their delivery of services toward such clients. This has implications for social work practice and service delivery. At the very least, more training and understanding of life styles and needs of low SES clients requires consideration, to ensure that this segment of the population receives fair, objective and just service delivery. ^

Subject Area

Social work

Recommended Citation

Cowan, Barbara Anne, "A study of the effects of elderly client gender, race, and socioeconomic status as influences of social workers attitudes towards, perceptions of problems and service delivery towards them" (1989). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9015946.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI9015946

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