School Social Workers' Relationships with parents: A critical incident field study

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School Social Workers' Relationships with parents: A critical incident field study

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School social workers engage parents in helping relationships which benefit children's learning. The extant literature has been focused on school social worker-parent interventions, not on the relationship. This qualitative study uses the Critical Incident Technique (CIT) to focus on the school social worker-parent relationship, and thereby begin to address this void in the literature. The study examined the experiences of school social workers and identified specific school social worker behaviors determined to be effective in building and sustaining relationships with parents. Data collection involved 18 one-to-one audio taped interviews with school social workers which were transcribed into texts. During analysis, critical incidents were identified which contained (a) a situation, (b) a behavior, and (c) an outcome. From the critical incidents, 38 school social worker behaviors were identified to be effective in building and maintaining relationships with parents. From these behaviors, three behavioral themes were identified that were present in at least 50% of the interviews. The three behavioral themes are: (a) communication behaviors, (b) showing care and concern behaviors, and (c) working within the school system. Based on the identified behavioral themes, competency standards for school social workers that may enhance their interactions with parents are suggested.


University of Minnesota Ed.D. dissertation. December 2008. Major: Work, community, and family education. Advisor: Dr. Ruth Thomas. 1 computer file (PDF); iv, 200 pages.

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Hansen, Eric Wayne. (2008). School Social Workers' Relationships with parents: A critical incident field study. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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