Journal Article

Workplace Violence towards Social Workers: The Australian Experience

Stella Koritsas, Jan Coles and Malcolm Boyle

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 40, issue 1, pages 257-271
Published in print January 2010 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online September 2008 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Workplace Violence towards Social Workers: The Australian Experience

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Workplace violence is common in health-related occupations that involve substantial contact with clients, such as nursing, general practice, pre-hospital care and emergency medicine. Research has also been conducted that explores violence in social work; however, the majority has emerged from the UK and USA, and is limited due to definitional shortcomings and the scope of violence. In Australia, there is a paucity of research that has explored the prevalence of violence in social work. Thus, the aim of the research was to determine the prevalence of six forms of workplace violence, and determine factors that may predict the occurrence of violence towards social workers. A questionnaire was developed that focused on social workers' experiences of six forms of violence (verbal abuse, property damage/theft, intimidation, physical abuse, sexual harassment and sexual assault). The questionnaire was randomly distributed to 1,000 social workers across Australia. Participation was voluntary and social workers completed the questionnaire anonymously. Analyses revealed that the majority of social workers (67 per cent) had experienced at least one form of violence in the past twelve months. The most common form of violence was verbal abuse followed by intimidation, and sexual assault was the least common form of violence experienced. Factors that predicted violence emerged for all six forms of violence examined. Based on the results of this research, it can be concluded that workplace violence is common in social work, particularly verbal abuse and intimidation. Factors that predict violence can be used to develop interventions aimed at preventing and managing workplace violence.

Keywords: Workplace violence; assault; prevalence; predictors; social workers

Journal Article.  5615 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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