Reflective ability, empathy, and emotional intelligence in undergraduate social work students: a cross-sectional study from India

Selwyn Stanley, G. Mettilda Bhuvaneswari

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    11 Citations (Scopus)


    The extant literature indicates that social work is a high stress profession owing to multifarious and complex demands of practice. There is also evidence of stress experienced by student trainees who aspire for a career in social work. Working with service users and the distressing life scenarios encountered on placement often involves negotiating complex emotions and requires reflective skills. Effective practice requires rapport building skills and the ability to demonstrate empathy is a core skill for effective practice. While there is a plethora of Western literature on these issues, the Indian literature has not adequately explored them. Framed against this background, this quantitative study collected data from students of all three years of their undergraduate social work course from a ‘women only’ college in India. Standardised instruments to assess empathy, reflective ability and emotional intelligence were administered. Statistical tests revealed a higher manifestation of these dimensions in final-year students than those in the first year. Further it was seen that the total emotional intelligence and empathy scores were positively correlated. Implications of these findings for the education and training of social work students has also been discussed in this article.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)560-575
    Number of pages16
    JournalSocial Work Education
    Issue number5
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Apr 2016


    • emotional intelligence
    • empathy
    • reflective ability
    • social work students

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