Lamothe J, Geoffrion S, Guay S. (2021). Investigating the Cyclical Hypothesis of Client Aggression as a “Loss Spiral”: Can Worker Distress Lead to Client Aggression?. Journal of Health and Social Care in the Community, 30(1), 275-283.
Working in a stressful environment, child protection workers (CPWs) are often victims of psychological and physical acts of aggression perpetrated by their clients. This can be emotionally distressing for CPWs. Previous authors have suggested that this distress could place CPWs at greater risk for subsequent victimisation if they become emotionally unavailable to their clients. This study sought to investigate whether the distress experienced after an act of client aggression or other types of potentially traumatic events could indeed predict subsequent victimisation over time. Using cross-lagged panel analysis, researchers administered standardised questionnaires to 173 CPWs who had experienced an act of client aggression or other type of potentially traumatic event in the month prior. Participants were asked to fill out additional questionnaires 2, 6 and then 12 months later. Researchers found that CPW distress did in fact predict subsequent victimisation at the 2-month time point only. Researchers then conducted a generalised linear model analysis to test the influence of sociodemographic variables and the moderating influence of supervisor support. Supervisor support did not moderate the relationship between initial distress levels and increased aggression 2 months later. The study concludes by examining how the emotional distress of CPWs can negatively impact clients and how organisations can best provide support, in part, by rethinking aggression prevention.