A study of status inconsistency among social work professionals
Kolack, Shirley Marion
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We have investigated whether or not the behaviors of individuals who are differentially ranked along a consistency dimension within a profession are parallel to the behavior of similar categories in the population as a whole. We also examined the utility of the status inconsistency variable for the prediction of selected role behaviors of those within the social work profession. The three indices selected on which individuals were ranked on a high-low continuum were education, ethnicity and job position. The social work literature revealed that these three measures were related to differences in prestige and esteem within the profession. The population studied included all social workers who were charter members of the Eastern Massachusetts Chapter of the professional association - The National Association of Social Workers - who were (1) members of specialty sections or subdivisions of the chapter, and (2) who were employed in nonhospital settings. Data were gathered by means of mailed questionnaires. Seventy-six per cent of the population replied, and these respondents are shown to be representative of the entire group. Comparable scales for each of the three vertical hierarchies, education, job position and ethnicity, were established. The relative position of respondents in the several hierarchies were compared. On the basis of the information, the sample was divided into the two subgroups of consistents and inconsistents. We predicted that within the profession the inconsistents would be subjected to more stresses and strains than the consistents, and would more often deviate from the norms of the overall profession. The analysis reveals statistically significant differences between the major groups of consistents and inconsistents for two of the three categories of hypotheses. These were (a) those hypotheses patterned after Lenski 's findings in his pionee·ring study of status consistency and (b) those hypotheses dealing with satisfaction within the profession. We did not find significant differences between the two subgroups for a third group of hypotheses (c), those dealing with strength of identification with the profession. Our findings confirm Lenski 1s results in showing the utility of status inconsistency as an explanatory variable for political behavior and for voluntary association patterns. Compared with consistents, inconsistents are more politically liberal, participate less often in voluntary associations and, when they do participate in such associations, more often express 11nonsociable" reasons for membership. We also demonstrate that status inconsistency is one explanation as to why the traditional view of professions as a relatively homogeneous community is not always tenable. Inconsistents appear to derive less satisfaction from the practice of social work, to be less inclined to view social work as a terminal occupation and to have more unhappy experiences within the profession. Further analysis and significance tests concerning the three components of the status consistency index, education, job, and ethnicity were made. Overall the subvariable analysis did not invalidate the explanatory power of the composite concept of inconsistency.
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