Exploring Sexual Prejudice in Context: History, Theory, and Measurement
The presence of sexual prejudice in social work remains an ongoing issue as the literature in this substantive area documents its presence among both practicing social workers as well as social work students. Institutionalized heterosexist bias creates an atmosphere ripe for differential treatment, and its presence in the social work profession has real potential to harm gay, lesbian, and bisexual clients who may be seeking those services. The Code of Ethics espoused by the National Association of Social Work (NASW) and the educational policy dictated by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) explicitly delineate antigay bias under the purview of professional issues. As social work educators attempt to train students to thwart their personal biases and encourage the promotion of social justice for all vulnerable and oppressed populations, including those who belong to a sexual minority group, garnering an understanding of the problem for their particular student population is a first essential step. The development of targeted pedagogical interventions must follow knowledge acquisition. Traditional measurement of antigay bias has focused on older notions of the problem, for example homophobia, and has failed to demarcate the precise source of prejudice. Of particular importance for social work educators is the specific source of biases found in the student population, especially one that is exposed to additional education about gays and lesbians. With that aim, this dissertation presents and evaluates a newly developed multidimensional measure of antigay bias. Items for the Sexual Prejudice Scale (SPS) were written to reflect contemporary conceptualization of antigay bias and based on a model of prejudice proposed by Haddock et al. (1993) and the perspective on prejudice espoused by conflict theory. The acquisition of prejudice may be multimodal, but its chief components remain stable—disparaging cognitions and negative affective reactions. Measurement of a latent phenomenon is improved when clear theoretical delineation of the construct is followed by accurate depiction through operationalization. Applying this approach, the SPS was designed to reflect the two primary forms of sexual prejudice—biases against gay men and those against lesbians. Within each of the gendered scales, each component of prejudice was conceived as a separate subscale to facilitate precision in measurement. These components are valuation, stereotyping, affective responses, and support for social equality. The SPS was subjected to a three stage process to establish evidence of validity, reliability, and its factor structure. A content validation study employing substantive and methodological experts was undertaken to delimit the initial item pool (N = 142). Data were then collected from students at four geographically diverse universities with CSWE accredited social work programs resulting in 851 usable surveys. The dataset was split using a random start point to generate two samples. The first sample (N = 426) was used for an exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and to test the hypothesized factor structure of the SPS. Results indicated a three-factor solution (affective-valuation, stereotyping, and social equality beliefs) with correlated factors for each of the gendered scales. Initial results of the reliability analysis were good and suggested that the SPS warranted further testing. The second dataset (N = 425) was tested for evidence of factorial validity (a confirmatory factor analysis; CFA), construct validity, known groups, and predictive validity along with a final reliability analysis. Results of the CFA indicated a strong three factor model for each of the gendered scales as evidenced by the goodness-of-fit indices. Cronbach's alphas for each subscale ranged from adequate to good, and the composite scales' stratified alphas were excellent. A priori validity hypotheses were confirmed and thus provide initial evidence for the validity of the SPS. Limitations to this study include the use of a convenience sample and lack of geographic representation from the West coast and the Plains states. Because the SPS was designed for and tested with social work students, this study cannot generalize findings to other adult populations. Moreover, the high proportion of young women in the sample, which is an ongoing issue in social work research, limits understanding for males and older students. Future research will seek to provide additional evidence for the reliability and validity of the SPS and test its utility with other populations, such as practicing social workers. Testing established pedagogical interventions with a scale that elicits more information will allow researchers to determine which components of prejudice are addressed by these specific approaches and allow for modifications to be made. Additionally, studies regarding the sustainability of change would fill a major gap in the literature and provide additional information about how students will approach practice.
Measurement, Sexual Prejudice, Factor Analysis
May 8, 2009.
A Dissertation submitted to the College of Social Work in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Darcy Clay Siebert, Professor Directing Dissertation; Kay Pasley, Outside Committee Member; Jean Munn, Committee Member; Scott Rutledge, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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