Date of Award

8-9-2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Robert Heasley, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

John A. Anderson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Betsy Crane, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Barbara Mooney, Ed.D.

Abstract

This study employed a quasi-experimental non-equivalent control group design with pretest and posttest. Two waves of data were collected from a non-random sample of 180 human service professionals in Western and Central Pennsylvania using two research instruments: the Social Work Empowerment Scale and the Conditions of Work Effectiveness – II Scale. Descriptive and inferential statistical procedures were used to analyze data. The purpose of the study was two-fold. First, this study sought to understand how psychological empowerment is related to environmental conditions in human service agencies as well as individual-level characteristics of workers. Results showed that higher levels of psychological empowerment in human service workers to be associated with: 1) more favorable conditions of empowerment in agencies (structural empowerment); and 2) higher levels of education. Second, this research evaluated the degree to which participation in a program called Family Development Credentialing (FDC) affected change in perception of psychological empowerment. FDC is a unique professional development experience that uses education as a tool by which human service professionals can be empowered themselves while simultaneously learning knowledge, skills and values associated with key tenets of strengths-based, empowerment practice on multiple levels (being empowering and working to create empowered conditions). It was hypothesized that participation in the FDC program would be related to positive changes in levels of perceived psychological empowerment in workers. This hypothesis was strongly supported. Key findings showed that for persons who participated in the FDC program, change in psychological empowerment was higher at all levels of change in structural empowerment when compared to persons in the Non-FDC group. For the FDC group, when negative change in perception of structural empowerment occurred (apparent decline in agency conditions), positive change in perception of psychological empowerment still occurred. This suggested FDC acted as a buffer, or counteracted the negative effects of changing conditions in agencies for workers. A model-of-change framework using empowerment constructs is proposed for the FDC program. Promising implications for use of the model to understand the multi-level programmatic outcomes of FDC for workers, families, agencies and communities are discussed. Recommendations for future research are made.

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