Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Social Work

Major Professor

Lisa Rapp-Paglicci, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Susan Allen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Marian Dumaine, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Alison Salloum, Ph.D.


social worker, workplace violence, career turnover intentions, career commitment, safety training


Social work literature has documented that social workers may be the victims of client violence. However, to date, no studies have documented the nationwide prevalence of client violence towards social work students. This study examined direct and indirect incidents of physical assault, threats of physical harm, verbal abuse, threats of lawsuit, and property damage. The randomly selected national sample of social work students were selected from the National Association of Social Workers (N = 595).

Findings revealed that 41.7% of social work students directly experienced client violence during their practicum. The highest rate of the violence reported by students was verbal abuse (37.5%) while the lowest rate of reported violence was physical assault (3.5%). Being male was the most significant predictor of social work students' exposure to client violence. Other factors related to increased violence were found, such as ethnicity and degree program. This study also examined whether students received safety training in 17 content areas and where they received the training. Fewer than 50% of students received training in most training content areas, regardless of where training was received. Furthermore, increased safety training in the field agency was significantly related to increased threats of physical harm and overall client violence. When training from all venues was totaled, increased training was significantly related to increased verbal abuse, property damage, and overall direct client violence.

This study found that when students experience client violence directly or indirectly, they have increased fear of future violence in social work practice. Implications for social work programs, field agencies and educators and social work students are discussed. Training content and strategies are suggested.