School of Social Policy & Practice
Founded as one of the nation's earliest schools of social work in the United States, the School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) has trained social work professionals for over 110 years. In the 21st century, its scope expanded to include public policy and nonprofit leadership as natural extensions of applied social research. Today, SP2 offers masters programs in social work, public policy, and nonprofit leadership; doctoral programs in social welfare and clinical social work, and a wide range of certificate programs and specializations. The school is home to several research centers, including the Center for Carceral Communities, the Center for Guaranteed Income Research, the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, the Center for Social Impact Strategy, the Center for Social Mobility and Prosperity, the Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice and Research, and the Ortner Center on Violence and Abuse. Faculty and graduate work is rooted in social justice, community care, and advancing equity-based policies worldwide.
PublicationCommunity-based Norms about Intimate Partner Violence: Putting Attributions of Fault and Responsibility into Context(2005-12-03) Taylor, Catherine A; Sorenson, Susan BFault and responsibility are key concepts in understanding how victims and assailants are, or are not, held accountable by society. We used a fractional factorial vignette design with a community-residing sample of 3,679 adults to examine judgments about intimate partner violence (IPV). Although fault, or causal responsibility, was assigned most often to assailants (69%), respondents assigned solution responsibility most often to both persons (52%) or to the victim alone (31%): interpersonal communication for couples (38%) and self-protective actions for victims (i.e., engaging formal authorities [12%] and/or leaving the assailant [11%]) were the most frequent suggestions. Potential injury to the victim and gender/relationship-based norms had the greatest impact on judgments. Findings may inform strategies to alter social norms regarding IPV. PublicationAs We Age: Current Considerations About the Elderly and Firearms(2012-03-01) Mertens, Brian; Sorenson, Susan BIn the United States, more than 17 million people over the age of 65 own a firearm. They have the highest rate of suicide by a firearm, and recent data suggest that a disproportionate number apply to carry a concealed weapon. At least one new handgun has been designed and marketed with older people in mind. Memory, thinking, and judgment as well as physical and behavioral competence issues related to an elder's safe operation of a motor vehicle apply to firearms, too. Gun availability can pose a particular risk to those with dementia as well as to their caretakers. The elderly constitute a substantial and rapidly growing population/market segment for whom the public health implications of firearm production, promotion, access, ownership, and use merit consideration. PublicationGender Disparities in Injury Mortality: Consistent, Persistent, and Larger Than You’d Think(2011-12-01) Sorenson, Susan BObjective. Given the recent increase in injury mortality, particularly among women, it is important to update knowledge about gender disparities in injury mortality. Methods. Data were drawn from the Web-based Injury Query System, which contains U.S. injury mortality data from 1981 through 2007. Male-to-female rate ratios in injury mortality were calculated for key variables, and age and ethnic group comparisons were made. Results. Boys and men are more likely than girls and women to die of injury. From 1981 to 2007, the male-to-female age-adjusted rate ratio decreased by 20% to 2.15 for unintentional injury and increased by 11% to 3.91 for violence-related injury. Excess male mortality exists in manner of death, cause of death, and within ethnic and age groups. In addition, with rare exception, the gender disparity is greater than ethnicity and age disparities in unintentional and violence-related injury mortality. Conclusions. Gender disparities in injury mortality are consistent and persistent. Gender patterns in injury mortality do not follow typical social justice analyses of health in that the structurally advantaged group, men, is at greater risk. Lifestyle and behavioral risks as well as masculine socialization are considered. PublicationAdolescents and Firearms: A California Statewide Survey(2004-05-01) Sorenson, Susan B; Vittes, Katherine AObjectives. We assessed the prevalence and correlates of adolescents reports regarding firearms in their homes, of their own, of close friends, and of same-aged peers. Methods. Random-digit-dialed interviews were conducted with 5801 adolescents as part of the California Health Interview Survey. Results. One fifth (19.6%) of California adolescents reported having a firearm in their homes; few (3.0%) reported having their own gun. Characteristics associated with having one's own gun and with perceptions regarding others' guns generally were consistent with characteristics associated with having a firearm in the home. The 2 exceptions were related to socioeconomic status and to ethnicity. Conclusions. The source from which adolescents obtain guns, especially adolescents from less wealthy households, merits further investigation. Further research is needed to ascertain the accuracy of Black and Latino adolescents' perceptions regarding handguns among their peers. PublicationSelf-Presentation on the Web: Agencies Serving Abused and Assaulted Women(2014-04-01) Sorenson, Susan B; Shi, Rui; Zhang, Jingwen; Xue, JiaObjectives. We examined the content and usability of the Web sites of agencies serving women victims of violence. Methods. We entered the names of a systematic 10% sample of 3774 agencies listed in 2 national directories into a search engine. We took (in April 2012) and analyzed screenshots of the 261 resulting home pages and the readability of 193 home and first-level pages. Results. Victims (94%) and donors (68%) were the primary intended audiences. About one half used social media and one third provided cues to action. Almost all (96.4%) of the Web pages were rated “fairly difficult” to “very confusing” to read, and 81.4% required more than a ninth-grade education to understand. Conclusions. The service and marketing functions were met fairly well by the agency home pages, but usability (particularly readability and offer of a mobile version) and efforts to increase user safety could be improved. Internet technologies are an essential platform for public health. They are particularly useful for reaching people with stigmatized health conditions because of the anonymity allowed. The one third of agencies that lack a Web site will not reach the substantial portion of the population that uses the Internet to find health information and other resources. PublicationJudgments About Intimate Partner Violence: A Statewide Survey About Immigrants(2006-07-01) Sorenson, Susan BObjectives. The purpose of this research was to: (1) examine judgments about immigrants who are victims of and assailants in intimate partner violence, and (2) assess whether immigrants to the U.S., a diverse and growing population, know that intimate partner violence is illegal in the United States and their judgments about what sanctions, if any, should follow. Methods. A random-digit-dial telephone survey was conducted in four languages with 3,679 California adults. There were roughly comparable numbers of white, black, Latino, Korean American, Vietnamese American, and other Asian American participants; 60.1% were born outside the U.S. An experimental vignette design was used to vary victim, assailant, and contextual factors about incidents of intimate partner violence and to assess respondents' judgments about the behavior and what should be done about it. Multivariate analyses were conducted to examine the independent effect of these predictor variables and characteristics of the respondents. Results. Respondent judgments about whether an incident of intimate partner violence was wrong, illegal, or about what sanctions should follow were not related to nativity of either the victim or the assailant. Immigrant respondents differed from native-born respondents on two outcomes: immigrants were more likely to think that the behavior was illegal and that guns should be removed from the assailant. Conclusions. Concerns that immigrants do not know that intimate partner violence is illegal in the U.S. are largely misplaced—immigrants know it soon after their arrival in the U.S. In addition, it appears that a cultural defense regarding domestic violence is not likely to sway others. PublicationKnowing a Sexual Assault Victim or Perpetrator: A Stratified Random Sample of Undergraduates at One University(2014-02-01) Sorenson, Susan B; Joshi, Manisha; Sivitz, ElizabethRape awareness and prevention programs are common on college campuses and a potentially useful way to reach large numbers of young adults. One largely unexamined potential mediator or moderator of program effectiveness is the personal knowledge of student audiences. In this study, we assess the prevalence of knowing a victim and, notably, a perpetrator of sexual assault. A stratified random sample of 2,400 undergraduates was recruited for an online survey about sexual assault. A total of 53.5% participated and yielded a sample representative of the student body. Sixteen questions were modified from the Sexual Experiences Survey to assess whether participants knew a victim of any one of eight types of sexual assault. Findings indicate that students begin college with considerable personal knowledge of sexual assault victimization and perpetration. Nearly two thirds (64.5%) reported that they know one or more women who were a victim of any one of eight types of sexual assault, and over half (52.4%) reported that they know one or more men who perpetrated any of the types of sexual assault. Most students reported knowing victims and perpetrators of multiple types of assault. Knowledge varied substantially by gender and ethnicity. Students’ preexisting personal knowledge should be included in assessments of program effectiveness and, ideally, in program design. PublicationIntervention on Behalf of Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence: Assessment of Support in a Diverse Community-based Sample(2007-10-01) Sorenson, Susan BAlthough children exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV) are at an increased risk of psychological, behavioral, and physical health problems, whether to intervene on their behalf remains a controversial issue. Policymakers and community service professionals would benefit from understanding public support for such intervention as well as any contexts or demographics associated with variation in that support. Such professionals could use this information to: 1) predict better the public’s support for funding interventions and potential involvement in reporting cases or encouraging families to seek help, and 2) aid in the development of criteria for a differential intervention response for children exposed to IPV based on the severity of IPV cases. PublicationA Systematic Review of the Epidemiology of Nonfatal Strangulation, a Human Rights and Health Concern(2014-11-01) Sorenson, Susan B; Joshi, Manisha; Sivitz, ElizabethWe reviewed the literature on the epidemiology of nonfatal strangulation (also, albeit incorrectly, called choking) by an intimate partner. We searched 6 electronic databases to identify cross-sectional, primary research studies from 1960 to 2014 that reported national prevalence estimates of nonfatal strangulation by an intimate partner among community-residing adults. Of 7260 identified references, 23 articles based on 11 self-reported surveys in 9 countries met the inclusion criteria. The percentage of women who reported ever having been strangled by an intimate partner ranged from 3.0% to 9.7%; past-year prevalence ranged from 0.4% to 2.4%, with 1.0% being typical. Although many epidemiological surveys inquire about strangulation, evidence regarding its prevalence is scarce. Modifying or adding a question to ongoing national surveys, particularly the Demographic and Health Surveys, would remedy the lack of data for low- and middle-income countries. In addition, when questions about strangulation are asked, findings should be reported rather than only combined with other questions to form broader categories (e.g., severe violence). Such action is merited because of the multiple negative short- and long-term sequelae of strangulation. PublicationShared Decision Making for Clients With Mental Illness: A Randomized Factorial Survey(2013-11-01) Lukens, Jonathan M; Solomon, Phyllis L; Sorenson, Susan BObjective: The goal of this study was to test the degree to which client clinical characteristics and environmental context and social workers’ practice values and experience influenced support for client’s autonomy and willingness to engage in shared decision making (SDM), and whether willingness to engage in SDM was mediated by support for autonomy. Method: A randomized factorial survey of social workers working with adults with severe mental illness was employed. Eighty-seven social workers responded yielding 435 vignettes. Results: Hypotheses were partially supported. Diagnosis, symptomology, threats of harm, treatment adherence, substance use, and social workers’ values and experience predicted support for autonomy and willingness to engage in SDM. Willingness to engage in SDM was modestly mediated by support for autonomy. Conclusion: Helping social workers avoid bias in decision making is critical to the goal of supporting clients’ autonomy, building their capacity, minimizing disempowerment, and promoting recovery.