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Effects of Indirect Experience of Client Violence on Social Workers’ Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Yongwoo Lee, , Doug Hyun Han, Seo-Koo Yoo, Hyunsoo Kim

Abstract: Objective This study aims to empirically determine if indirect exposure to client violence has significant negative effects on social workers’ posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) the same way direct victimization does.Methods Using a sample of 1,359 social workers drawn from the data collected by the Seoul Association of Social Workers, this study employs descriptive statistics to examine the prevalence of indirect experiences with client violence, and utilizes a series of hierarchical regression analyses to demonstrate the potential impact of indirect exposure to client violence on PTSD. To assess the severity of PTSD symptoms in participants, the Korean version of the Impact of Events Scale-Revised (IES-R-K) was employed.Results A descriptive analysis shows that 12.4% of the sample indirectly experienced client violence by witnessing it or hearing about a violent incident, whereas 6.0% were directly victimized. Hierarchical regression analyses indicate that direct experience (B=4.548, p<0.05) and indirect experience (B=7.297, p<0.001) of client violence have a significant association with the scores on IES-R-K. An investigation of the interaction terms between experiences of client violence and violence-prevention training illustrates that such training significantly moderates the influence on the scores on IES-R-K from indirect exposure to client violence (B=-8.639, p<0.01).Conclusion Social workers who are indirectly exposed to client violence experience PTSD symptoms comparable to their colleagues who were directly victimized. Further, violence-prevention training has greater ameliorative effects with regard to indirect experience of client violence than for direct victimization.
Keywords: stress / social workers / PTSD / indirect exposure to client violence

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