Secondary Traumatic Stress Among Social Workers: The Contribution of Resilience, Social Support, and Exposure to Violence and Ethical Conflicts

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Abstract

Objective: Social workers are at high risk of experiencing secondary traumatic stress (STS). Informed by the job demands-resources theory ( JD-R), this study examined the contribution of job-related resources (i.e., resilience and social support) and job demands (i.e., the frequency of dual-obligation ethical conflict and exposure to violence) to STS among social workers. Method: The sample included 379 Israeli social workers. Controlling for gender and length of professional experience, we performed a three-step hierarchical regression analysis designed to explain STS among social workers. Results: Being a woman, having lower levels of resilience and perceived social support, having higher frequency of ethical conflicts, and being exposed to client violence were related to higher levels of STS. We found no association between length of professional experience and STS. Conclusions: Findings highlight the importance of a positive ethical climate in social service organizations and, especially, of adequate support for social workers. Our findings also emphasize the relevance of increased guarding and monitoring in the workplace and training to strengthen social workers’ sense of resilience and provide strategies to cope with ethical conflicts and client violence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-65
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of the Society for Social Work and Research
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2022

Keywords

  • Ethical conflicts
  • Exposure to client violence
  • Resilience
  • Secondary traumatic stress
  • Social support

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