Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work




Social case work, Confidential communications -- Social case work, Social group work



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 117 leaves)


This study is the seventh in a series begun in 1957 to relate social work theory to general systems theory. The purpose of this study was to assess, through the judgment of professional social workers, the use of the two concepts, self-determination and confidentiality, in casework and social group work situations. The two concepts were operationalized by construction of five practice principles for each concept. An instrument was developed in which a critical hypothetical situation exemplified each principle for both methods with a forced choice of four actions evidencing the degree of self-determination and confidentiality. Forty randomly selected trained social workers in the Portland area answered the questionnaire. Three propositions were tested. The first predicted that workers' judgments of the use of the two concepts would be significantly influenced by the unit of treatment. The second predicted that there would be a higher correlation on self-determination between casework and group work situations than on confidentiality between the two methods. The third predicted that five variables would be significantly related to differential judgments of workers of the two concepts in both methods. Findings: Proposition I was partially substantiated. The unit of treatment was significant for the use of self-determination, but not for the use of confidentiality. Proposition II was not substantiated. Evidence showed, however, that the exact opposite of this proposition had occurred. There was a significantly higher correlation on confidentiality between the two methods than for self-determination. Among the five variables selected for testing, group work experience proved to be statistically significant in the use of confidentiality in casework situations. The variance in the scores of those respondents having group work experience was over twice as large as those respondents having no group work experience in workers’ judgments of the use of confidentiality in casework situations. In addition, years of social work experience showed a significant positive correlation in the use of self-determination in casework situations. There was no statistical significance as far as professional education in group work method, other types of training in the two methods, and preference for either casework or group work. Though not statistically significant, it was found that those respondents with graduate education in group work showed more variance in their judgments compared with those respondents without such education, indicating that education in more than one method broadens the perceptual set of the worker but that actual experience in group work is more significant than is academic education. When years of social work experience were compared, it was found that more self-determination was allowed by those respondents with more years of experience, perhaps indicating that increased experience increases the personal security of the worker. The respondents' reasons for their choice of actions indicated that they were largely guided by practice principles relating to each concept but there was an overlap among these principles. The data also showed that other concepts such as the social work relationship and the worker's responsibility to society guided some workers' choices of action. The significance of this study is that it provided eclectic definitions of the two concepts from which practice principles were operationalized, thereby contributing to theory building; illustrated that perception theory can be used for research in social work practice; identified areas for curriculum planning and staff development; and pointed to areas for future research.


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