Differences in causal attributions of caseworkers and elderly clients in the USA: impact on case resolution and cessation of abuse
The Journal of Adult Protection
Article publication date: 30 September 2013
The purpose of this paper was to test whether differences in attributions between caseworkers and their elderly clients regarding the cause of reported elder abuse occurring in a domestic setting impact the ability of caseworkers to effectively intervene in elder abuse cases.
Interviews were conducted with 63 pairs of caseworkers and either the elderly client with a substantiated report of elder abuse or their surrogate.
Initially, 61.9 percent of the pairs of interviewees held discordant attributions regarding the cause of the elderly person's abuse. However, at the close of the investigation, only 41.3 percent of the pairs of interviewees held discordant causal attributions, with 13 elderly persons having changed their attributions to be in alignment with the caseworker. Discordant causal attributions at the close of the investigation was related to an inability to find a resolution and achieving cessation of abuse.
It will be beneficial to determine methods APS caseworkers can employ to narrow the causal attribution gap.
Reconciling discordant causal attributions while maintaining victim autonomy can enhance the likelihood of effective interventions and lead to greater victim safety. However, this takes more time than most APS caseworkers in the USA are allowed by statute to allocate to one case and may necessitate statutory changes that accompany changes in practice.
This is the first study to assess differences between caseworkers and their elderly clients regarding their causal attributions of reported abuse occurring and whether those differences are related to the likelihood of reaching a resolution and the cessation of abuse.
The authors would first like to thank the many elderly victims residing in Virginia for sharing their experiences of abuse with them, and to their respective adult protective services caseworkers for sharing their insights. They would also like to thank the respective APS supervisors and regional coordinators, as well as Barbara Jenkins, Gail Nardi, and Todd Areson from the Virginia Department of Social Services, for facilitating their research. Finally, they would like to thank James Peugh, PhD, and Kelly Gurka, PhD, for their statistical assistance, as well as our stellar team of research assistants: Charles Koransky, Milena Zimmerman, Ann Emory, Emma Spielman, and Sally Mays.
Funding – This work was supported by the National Institute of Justice, US Department of Justice (2006-WG-BX-0010). Points of view expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the US Department of Justice or the University of Virginia.
L. Jackson, S. and L. Hafemeister, T. (2013), "Differences in causal attributions of caseworkers and elderly clients in the USA: impact on case resolution and cessation of abuse", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 15 No. 5, pp. 246-257. https://doi.org/10.1108/JAP-12-2012-0029
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