Explaining Self-Reported Resilience in Child-Protection Social Work: The Role of Organisational Factors, Demographic Information and Job Characteristics

Paula McFadden, John Mallett, Anne Campbell, Brian Taylor - The British Journal of Social Work


Child-protection social work is a stressful occupation that results in workforce concerns about poor levels of staff retention and high levels of inexperience. This paper presents results from a cross-sectional survey and reports findings from a sample of 162 Northern Irish social workers. The sample were measured for ‘resilience’ (acceptance of self and life and individual competence, RS14 Resilience Scale), ‘burnout’ (emotional exhaustion EE, depersonalisation DP, personal accomplishment PA, Maslach Burnout Inventory) and organisational subscales (work-load, community, values, equity and control, Area of Work Life Scale (AWLS)). Pearson zero-order correlations showed that higher resilience was associated with lower EE and higher PA. Hierarchical linear regression analysis was used to identify unique demographic and work-specific predictors of resilience in addition to the AWLS subscales of control and values. The final model significantly accounted for 27 per cent of the variance in resilience scores, providing increased knowledge about resilience enhancing factors. As resilience is not an apolitical concept, the wider debates and politics of resilience are acknowledged. Specifically, contextual concerns are addressed that relate to the organisational factors that impact on social workers. The paper concludes by calling for organisational interventions to support resilience in social workers and maintain expertise in child-protection services.