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Soc Work. 2008 Apr;53(2):167-76.

Social workers and the NASW Code of Ethics: belief, behavior, disjuncture.

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Department of Psychiatry, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York, New York, USA.


A quantitative descriptive survey of a national sample of social workers (N = 206) examined discrepancies between belief in the NASW Code of Ethics and behavior in implementing the code and social workers' disjunctive distress (disjuncture) when belief and behavior are discordant. Relationships between setting and disjuncture and ethics education and disjuncture were also examined. Variables were measured with a survey instrument that was based on the NASW Code of Ethics and that incorporated a validated professional opinions scale. Findings indicated disjuncture when belief and behavior scores were discordant; lower disjuncture occurred when behavior was congruent with the code, and disjuncture increased with incongruent behavior. Belief in the code did not influence behavior congruent with the code. There were significant disjuncture score differences among different work settings, with the highest scores among social workers in public agencies and the lowest among those in private agencies. Lower discordance of belief and behavior scores and lower belief scores occurred among those who took separate ethics courses, perhaps making them more doubtful about implementing the code in the real world. Respondents said they valued their work more with supervision; however, the amount of clinical and administrative supervision decreased with time.

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