Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Dr. Janet Chang


The purpose of this study was to explore how social workers identify elder abuse, factors they find contribute to or protect from elder abuse, and cultural considerations they identify as important. The qualitative research approach was utilized, and an interview instrument was created to explore participants’ perceptions and generate recommendations for developing cultural sensitivity in practice. The study sample consisted of 10 social workers with experience working with the elderly population recruited by snowball sampling. Face-to-face interviews were conducted, audio-recorded, and transcribed for analysis. This study found that social workers are particularly knowledgeable about risk factors for elder abuse and cultural considerations, such as client perception of seeking help and accepting services as taboo, and the greater effectiveness of a social worker who shares the same cultural background. A key finding was social workers’ perceived need for education in developing cultural sensitivity, including formal trainings, consultation with client families, and self-awareness. Implications for social work practice include the development of new and more comprehensive training programs, such that specifically incorporates cultural sensitivity. Greater opportunities for education call for increased funding, and mandatory cultural sensitivity trainings call for changes in policy. Future research is needed to understand client perceptions of elder abuse and of service providers. Finally, future research on elder abuse and cultural factors beyond race and ethnicity, such as sexual orientation and religion, is also needed.

Included in

Social Work Commons