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Job placement: the development of theory-based measures.

The entry and re-entry of persons with disabilities into the workplace is of critical importance in the United States. Among the 53 million adults with a disability in 1997, approximately 33 million bad a significant disability and 10 million needed assistance in their daily lives (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001). One in five working-age adults has a disability. Numerous public laws have defined and guided the roles of both federal and state rehabilitation service agencies to assist persons with disabilities to become placed into gainful competitive employment. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) defines an individual with a disability as an individual who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment (ADA, section 3: Definitions, 1990). Other public laws providing guidance include the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the ADA; the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992; the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998; and the Workforce Investment Partnership Act of 1998, which emphasizes the priority of state vocational rehabilitation services to place consumers with disabilities into competitive employment. However, the unemployment of persons with disabilities, between 18 and 64 years of age, is estimated at 68% (National Organization on Disability, 2001).

No aspect of the rehabilitation practice demands more careful study by public rehabilitation placement professionals than the placement of consumers with disabilities into jobs. Studies on the provision of job placement services to consumers with disabilities suggest the public rehabilitation placement professionals' attitudes toward persons with disabilities impact job placement outcomes. Rehabilitation placement professionals' attitudes toward consumers with disabilities have also been found to be significantly correlated with the consumer's self-concept and the rehabilitation placement professional's utilization of the consumer's skills and abilities for job placement outcomes (All, Fried, Ritcher, Shaw, & Roberto, 1997; Beck, Carlton, Alien, Rosenkoetter, & Hardy, 1993; Bowman, 1987; Caufield, Carey, & Mason, 1994; Cook, 1987; Kerr, 1970; Mullins, Roessler, Schriner, Brown, & Bellini, 1997; Schlossberg & Pietrofesa, 1973; Watson-Armstrong, O'Rourke, & Schatzlein, 1994).

Obtaining successful rehabilitation service outcomes could be enhanced through understanding the public rehabilitation placement professionals' beliefs toward placing consumers with disabilities into jobs. The needs of consumers demand that rehabilitation placement professionals provide services in an expert and proficient manner, resulting in the successful placement of the consumer into a job (Fabian, Luecking, & Tilson, 1995; Gilbride & Stensrud 1993; Millington, Asner, Linkowski, & Der-Steppeanian, 1996).

Theory of Planned Behavior

In this study, the empirical cognitive behavioral theory of planned behavior (TPB) was used to guide data collection of rehabilitation placement professionals' beliefs toward placing a consumer with a disability into a job. The TPB, based on decades of research, posits that a person's behavior is a function of his or her intentions to perform a particular action (Ajzen, 2001; Ajzen, 1988; Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Ajzen & Fishbein, 1972; Ajzen & Madden, 1986). The cognitive determinants of intentions include perceived outcomes of performing the behavior, social pressure to perform behavior, and perceived behavioral control. The TPB suggests that individuals' intentions to perform a behavior are guided by particular beliefs which lead to outcomes they value if (a) they believe the views toward the behavior held by important others, whom they value, support them to perform the behavior and (b) they feel the necessary resources to perform the behavior are available to them (Connor & Sparks, 1999).

The TPB suggests that intention is predicted by three cognitive determinants: (a) attitude, (b) subjective norm, and (c) perceived behavioral control. Each determinant consists of a belief, or a set of beliefs, and an evaluation of each belief. Attitude is defined as the individual's perceived consequences of the behavior. Attitude is influenced by an individual's perceptions of the likelihood of identified outcomes from performing the behavior (behavioral beliefs) and an evaluation of the outcome as an advantage or disadvantage of performing the behavior. Subjective norm is defined as the individual's subjective belief about what those people important to him or her think about performing the behavior addressed. Subjective norm is influenced by the subjective probability that other important individuals think he or she should or should not perform the behavior (normative beliefs) and the measure of his or her motivation to comply with these individuals. In forming the subjective norm component, individuals take into account the normative expectations of various others in their environment. Perceived behavioral control is defined as the individual's perception of how difficult a behavior is to perform and is consistent with the concept of self-efficacy (Bandura, 1986). Perceived behavioral control consists of beliefs identifying the likelihood of resources for, and impediments to, performing the behavior addressed (control beliefs) and the perceived effect of each resource or impediment as being easy or difficult. Control beliefs are influenced by past experience in performing the behavior and experiences of acquaintances and friends, suggesting exploration and validation of these beliefs (Ajzen & Madden, 1986; Conner & Sparks, 1999; Kohler, Grimley, & Reynolds, 1999).

According to the TPB, behavioral change is ultimately the result of changes in the salient beliefs of the persons performing the behavior. Modifying identified salient beliefs through interventions would create a change in attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control, and therefore strengthen one's behavioral intentions to place consumers with disabilities into jobs (Ajzen, 2001; Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). The TPB (see Figure 1) has become one of the most widely utilized social cognitive behavioral theories to assess behavior (Conner & Sparks, 1999). It has been used to successfully predict intention and suggest interventions to enhance behavior in an array of studies such as female employment choice (Kolverid, 1996), student selection of an undergraduate major (Cohen & Hanno, 1993), cooperative learning usage (Lumpe & Haney, 1998), computer-based health appraisal system usage (Rhodes & Fishbein, 1997), undergraduate student class attendance (Ajzen & Madden, 1986), HIV and sexually transmitted disease prevention among adolescents in the UK (Jemmott, Jemmott, & Cruz-Collins, 1992), research dissemination among addictions counselors (Breslin, Li, Tupker, & Sdao-Jarvie, 2001), technology training adaptation in the workplace (Morris & Venkatesh, 2000), and distance education course enrollment (Becker & Gibson, 1998).

Purpose of Study

The objective of this study was to apply an empirical cognitive behavioral theory, specifically the theory of planned behavior (TPB), to identify salient behavioral beliefs, normative beliefs, and control beliefs and explore factors that may affect the intention of public rehabilitation placement professionals to place consumers with disabilities into jobs. Data were collected from a convenience sample of public rehabilitation placement professionals in five states of the southern United States. This analysis is especially important because, the application of theory for the elicitation of public rehabilitation placement professionals' salient beliefs toward placing consumers with disabilities into jobs has potential for significantly changing not only practice, but training and education related to these practices.

Method

The study design utilized a quasi-experimental design (Vogt, 1999). A deductive research approach was applied in this study. Such an approach utilizes theory, provides the researcher with a direct and narrow focus, analysis by construct, and higher validity of results (Burisch, 1984).

Instrument Development

When applying the TPB, it was necessary to define the behavior addressed in relation to the four elements of action, target, context, and time (Elder, Ayala, & Harris, 1999; Sutton, McVey, & Glanz, 1999). Using guidelines as outlined by the TPB (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Ajzen & Madden, 1986), the targeted action was defined as placing a consumer into a job; the target population was persons with disabilities served by public rehabilitation services; the context was within the job duties and functions of a public rehabilitation placement professional; and the time was the period between becoming part of the rehabilitation placement professional's active caseload and being placed into a job.

In the guidelines of the TPB, the Rehabilitation Placement Survey (RPS) was developed by the authors to elicit the salient beliefs of public rehabilitation placement professionals toward placing consumers with disabilities into jobs. The RPS was an anonymous three-item, free-response, and open-ended paper-pencil questionnaire. Three questions were created to elicit the public rehabilitation placement professionals' salient behavioral beliefs, normative beliefs, and control beliefs, respectively: (1) Please list any advantages and or disadvantages to placing a consumer with a disability into a job; (2) When you consider placing a consumer with a disability into a job, there may be individuals or groups who think you should or should not perform this behavior. If any such individuals or groups come to mind, please list them; and (3) Are there any resources for, or impediments to, placing a consumer with a disability into a job? If so, please list these. Participants were asked to report demographic information including position, experience, education level, ethnicity, age, and gender. The RPS would be administered to a convenience sample of public rehabilitation placement professionals. In a convenience sample, clearly presented demographic data allows a more precise judgment regarding the external validity of the study findings (Payton, 1994).

The content of the RPS was validated by three expert review panels: four faculty members having experience placing consumers with disabilities into jobs, from the Rehabilitation Counseling Program, Department of Rehabilitation and Special Education, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama; three faculty members, who had expertise in application of the TPB, from the Department of Health Behavior, School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama; and eight experienced rehabilitation placement professionals employed in a state rehabilitation services agency. Based on the recommendations of the panel reviews, a consensus was found and subsequent minor changes were made to the RPS. The RPS was approved by the Institutional Review Board of Auburn University.

Participants

The RPS was provided to a convenience sample of 155 public rehabilitation placement professionals in the states of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. A sample participant was selected on two criteria. First, potential study participants were involved with one of either two distance education programs in rehabilitation counseling or rehabilitation job placement programs offered through the Comprehensive System for Professional Development of Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA. Both programs served rehabilitation professionals directly involved in job placement. Second, participants met the criteria of being employed in a state agency and held the position of: (a) a rehabilitation counselor, as defined by his or her state agency or (b) a rehabilitation placement specialist, which included all other state agency positions involved directly in job placement (e.g., employment specialist, job development specialist, community employment specialist). Participation in the study was voluntary and independent of any course requirements.

Analyses

The analyses were conducted in accordance with the standard guidelines of the TPB (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Ajzen & Madden, 1986). The first step was analogous to a content analysis of the various elicited salient beliefs. This involved organizing the salient beliefs by cognitive determinants and then grouping similar beliefs together. Beliefs then were grouped by analytic category. For example, supervisor and family would be analytic categories for normative belief. The exact words of the written belief were used in this procedure. In using the exact words presented by the participants, reader interpretation was reduced (Sims & Wright, 2000). For each cognitive determinant component (e.g., behavioral, normative, control), the frequency of each analytic category was determined. Between three and ten analytic categories, representing the majority of beliefs, became the modal belief statements (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980).

To address the issue of reliability, the authors measured interrater reliability (Sims & Wright, 2000; Vogt, 1999). The first and second authors independently analyzed the elicited salient beliefs of the participant beliefs. They compared broad categories and interpreted individual beliefs according to standard procedures (Rhodes & Hergenrather, 2002). Each elicited salient belief response, for both the behavioral beliefs and normative beliefs, addressed a single topic. However, among the elicited salient control beliefs, the category of public assistance consisted of single statements addressing public financial and public medical benefits. The authors agreed to report this as one category, reflecting the respondent's beliefs. The inter-rater reliability was reported at 100%.

Results

Participants

Of 158 public rehabilitation placement professionals recruited, 155 completed the RPS, indicating a 98.1% response rate. All surveys were complete, containing at least one response per question. Demographics are presented in Table 1.

Behavioral Beliefs

The first question of the RPS asked the public rehabilitation placement professionals to list any advantages and or disadvantages to placing a consumer with a disability into a job. This question represented the behavioral belief component of the TPB. Of the 806 elicited salient behavioral beliefs, 788 (97.8%) were identified as outcomes affecting the consumer with a disability and 18 (2.2%) were identified as outcomes affecting the public rehabilitation placement professional (e.g., increasing case closure rates, meeting job performance standards). A mean of five salient behavioral beliefs was elicited from each participant. Ten analytic categories emerged, representing 72.0% of the elicited salient behavioral beliefs (See Table 2). The ten categories represent the modal behavioral beliefs (MBB) as defined by the TPB.

Normative Beliefs

The second question of the RPS asked the public rehabilitation placement professionals to list any individuals or groups who think they should or should not place a consumer with a disability into a job. This question represented the normative belief component of the TPB. A mean of two normative beliefs was elicited from each participant. Three analytic categories were determined, representing 82.6% of the 389 elicited salient normative beliefs (See Table 3). These categories represent the modal normative beliefs (MNB) as defined by the TPB.

Control Beliefs

The final question of the RPS asked the public rehabilitation placement professionals to list resources for, or impediments to, placing consumers with disabilities into jobs. This question represented the control belief component of the TPB. A mean of five control beliefs was elicited from each participant. Ten analytic categories were determined, representing 70.8% of the 894 elicited salient control beliefs (See Table 4). These categories represent the modal control beliefs (MCB) as defined by the TPB.

Discussion and Implications

The authors applied the theory of planned behavior (TPB) to elicit salient beliefs for identifying and exploring factors that may impact job placement behavior. In this study, 21 factors were identified. Although prior research has identified some factors associated with job placement, most findings were not elicited from the persons providing job placement services and no studies were theoretically-based (Brooks & Klosinski, 1999; Freedman, & Fesko, 1996; Gilbride, Stensrud, Ehlers, Evans, & Peterson, 2000; Rumril, Millington, Webb, & Cook, 1998; Schmidt-Davis, Hayward, & Kay, 2000; Schriner, Greenwood, & Johnson, 1989; Shahnasarian, 2001; Tsang, Lam, Ng, & Leung, 2000; Walls, Dowler, Cordingly, Orslene, & Greer, 2001).

Several findings from this study deserve highlighting and further exploration. First, the elicited salient behavioral beliefs concentrated on outcomes affecting consumers with disabilities rather than on outcomes affecting the job performance of public rehabilitation placement professionals. This suggests that public rehabilitation placement professionals are altruistic, being more concerned with increasing the welfare of the consumer, rather than increasing their own welfare. Public rehabilitation placement professionals perceive the consumer's needs and value the consumer's welfare as an ultimate goal (Batson, Turk, Shaw, & Klein, 1995). A common source of altruistic motivation is empathic emotion, in which one's feelings are congruent with the perceived welfare of the consumer and goals are set to address the consumer's needs, increasing the greater common good for all consumers and society (Batson, 1991; Hoffman, 1976).

The application of the TPB identified ten modal behavioral beliefs, perceived to be the most likely outcomes of placing a consumer with a disability into a job. The modal behavioral beliefs were reported as being valued and having a positive impact upon the consumer. When salient behavioral beliefs are regarded as having a positive value, it is suggested that the person holds a favorable attitude toward that behavior (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). This suggests that the public rehabilitation placement professionals in this study have a favorable attitude toward placing consumers with disabilities into jobs. Of the behavioral beliefs, two were acknowledged by one-half or more of the public rehabilitation placement professionals. This suggests that public rehabilitation placement professionals perceive the most likely outcomes of job placement as increasing the consumer's self-esteem and increasing the consumer's autonomy. The job placement outcome of increasing the consumer's autonomy was supported by the behavioral beliefs that job placement allows the consumer to become independent of public financial assistance and to become independent of public health care benefits.

Second, the application of the TPB identified three normative referents, perceived as being important and influential. The supervisor was reported as the most frequent referent by four-fifths of the public rehabilitation placement professionals, suggesting that the participants recognize that job placement behavior may be influenced and that they are likely to acknowledge the supervisor's influence over the influence of peers and family. The more a public rehabilitation placement professional perceives a referent to view placing persons with disabilities into jobs as important, the more likely the public rehabilitation placement professional is to perform the behavior. In most instances, persons hold favorable attitudes toward the behaviors they perceive their referents to think they should perform, and hold negative attitudes toward behaviors that their referents think they should not perform (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). The behavioral belief findings supporting a positive attitude toward job placement outcome suggest that public rehabilitation placement professionals perceive their supervisors to think they should place consumers with disabilities into jobs. Although supervisors may influence job placement behavior, that influence may be limited by the supervisor's knowledge level of the disability addressed. This influence should be explored and may be dependent upon specific disabilities such as AIDS, substance abuse, and severe mental illness.

Third, the application of the TPB identified eight impediments to job placement that were perceived as likely to occur. This suggests that public rehabilitation placement professionals acknowledge the impact of impediments to, rather than resources for, job placement in facilitating their ability to place consumers with disabilities into jobs. When impediments are identified as salient control beliefs, individuals are less likely to engage in behaviors when faced with such impediments (Conner & Sparks, 1999). These findings suggest that the identified impediments should be explored and validated. Future trainings should be conducted to increase the rehabilitation professional's level of self-efficacy in addressing the identified impediments impacting job placement behavior.

In applying the TPB, only three impediments were acknowledged by at least three-fifths of the public rehabilitation placement professionals. This suggests that the majority of these professionals perceive themselves as being unable to place a consumer with a disability into a job who lacks job-seeking skills, has the potential to lose public assistance, or lacks family support. The consumer's lack of job-seeking skills was reported as an impediment to job placement by approximately three-fourths of the public rehabilitation placement professionals, suggesting they acknowledge the importance and value of job-seeking skills. The need to increase job seeking skills has been reported as an impediment to job placement since 1965, when early research on this topic was conducted with three job-readiness training clinics in Toledo, Ohio (Pumo, Sehl, & Cogan, 1966). More than three decades later, the current study suggests that a consumer's lack of job-seeking skills continues to be an impediment. Rehabilitation services should focus attention on this issue.

Of public rehabilitation placement professionals, approximately two-thirds identified a consumer's potential to lose public assistance as an impediment to placing a consumer with a disability into a job. Rehabilitation professionals must explore this belief and investigate the documented number of consumers receiving public assistance and the impact of public assistance upon job placement outcomes. Among persons with severe disabilities, 20% received Supplemental Security Income in 1997. Only 27% of the Social Security Administration's Disability Insurance (SSADI) beneficiaries received a public vocational rehabilitation service (e.g., physical therapy, vocational training, job counseling, general education, and job placement). Of the rehabilitation services, job placement was used by 2% of beneficiaries. Less than one fourth of one percent (.25%) of SSADI beneficiaries return to work through public rehabilitation programs (Hennessey & Muller, 1995; Marini & Stebnicki, 1999; U.S. Census Bureau, 2001).

Approximately three-fifths of the public rehabilitation job placement professionals reported the lack of family support as an impediment. The family is a major influence on the consumer's adaptation to his or her disability and impacts consumer's motivation to work. Public rehabilitation placement professionals must work with consumers to (a) understand the family dynamics of the consumer and the impact of these upon consumer motivation and (b) understand the consumer's role in the family and how placing the consumer into a job will impact his or her family role.

Implications for Public Rehabilitation Job Placement Professionals

The findings from this study support the application of the TPB in the field of public rehabilitation services to identify factors impacting service provision. The elicited salient beliefs identified 21 factors and established three sets of modal beliefs addressing (a) outcomes of job placement, (b) persons influencing public rehabilitation placement professionals to place consumers into jobs, and (c) impediments to placing a consumer with a disability into a job. According to the TPB, job placement behavior change will occur by addressing the 21 factors by groupings of behavioral beliefs, normative beliefs, and control beliefs (Ajzen & Madden, 1986; Conner & Sparks, 1999). Future job placement training should be tailored to address and explore the factors affecting the placement of consumers with disabilities into jobs.

Limitations

Conclusions based on this study are subject to several limitations. First, participant's self-reports on the Rehabilitation Placement Survey may have been biased by a reluctance to answer questions he or she may have perceived as having relevance in evaluating job performance, social desirability concerns, and "faking good," (Streiner & Norman, 1995). Second, self-reports of beliefs regarding the placement of consumers with disabilities into jobs may not translate into actual job placement behavior. Third, a convenience sample was used and may not be representative of public rehabilitation placement professionals. Fourth, although the behavior addresses the four components of action, target, context, and time frame, the component of target was generalized to all consumers with disabilities and not a specific disability. Despite the limitations, the study provides the first empirical evidence that the TPB provides a structure to identify job placement beliefs and suggests specific issues to address for enhancing practice.

Conclusion

With only 32% of persons with disabilities between 18 and 64 years of age employed (National Organization on Disability, 2001), job placement issues continue to be of paramount concern for public rehabilitation services. The TPB was applied to develop empirical foundations for identifying issues pertaining to the behavior of placing consumers with disabilities into jobs. Theoretical guidelines were used to identify 21 factors impacting job placement behavior, moving beyond the discovery orientation of research variables to organize the data and observe empirically based relationships. The study findings suggest that public rehabilitation placement professionals are altruistic and hold positive attitudes toward placing consumers with disabilities into jobs. Participants acknowledged that their ability to place consumers with disabilities into jobs was influenced by their supervisor and the impediments to, rather than resources for, job placement.

Future research should examine the relationship between the findings of this study and the intentions of public rehabilitation placement professionals toward placing consumers with specific disabilities into jobs (e.g., AIDS, substance abuse, severe mental illness). Additional studies should determine the statistical significance of beliefs upon both the intention and the behavior of placing consumers into jobs. The concept of utilizing behavioral theories to address specific phenomena in the discipline of public rehabilitation services has been presented as one way in which to further develop the empirical foundations of the field, substantiate the phenomenon being measured, and enhance the clarity of research studies (DeVellis, 1991; Hershenson et al., 1981; Hershenson, 1993; McAlees, 1993). In utilizing theory-driven methods, the profession of rehabilitation counseling would be further expanded, building upon the experience and research of the predecessors in our field.

Acknowledgement

The authors express their appreciation to the public rehabilitation placement professionals from Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee, who participated in this study.
Table 1

Demographics of Participants (N=155)

Characteristic N (%)

Position
 Rehabilitation Counselor 74 (47.7)
 Rehabilitation Placement
 Specialist 81 (52.3)
Educational level
 High School diploma/GED 19 (12.3)
 Associate degree 8 (5.2)
 Bachelor's degree 61 (39.4)
 Master's degree 63 (40.6)
 Doctorate 4 (2.5)
Ethnicity/race
 African American 45 (29.1)
 Alaskan American 3 (1.9)
 Caucasian American 106 (68.4)
 Hispanic/Latino American 1 (0.6)
Gender
 Female 109 (70.3)
 Male 46 (29.7)

Table 2

Modal Behavioral Beliefs (N=580)

Behavioral Belief N (%)

 1. Increases the consumer's self-esteem 78 (13.5)
 2. Increases the consumer's autonomy 75 (12.9)
 3. Increases the consumer's work experience 70 (12.1)
 4. Increases the consumer's social skills 68 (11.7)
 5. Allows the consumer independence from
 public financial assistance 58 (10.0)
 6. Allows the consumer to contribute to
 society 56 (9.7)
 7. Allows the consumer independence from
 public health care benefits 49 (8.4)
 8. Assimilates the consumer into society 45 (7.8)
 9. Increases structure in the consumer's life 42 (7.2)
10. Increases income through employment 39 (6.7)

Table 3

Modal Normative Beliefs (N=321)

Normative Group N (%)

1. Supervisor 133 (41.4)
2. Job placement specialist/rehabilitation
 counselor peers in my agency 110 (34.3)
3. Family of the rehabilitation placement
 professional 78 (24.3)

Table 4

Modal Control Beliefs (N=634)

Control Belief: N (%)

1. Consumer's lack of job seeking skills 114 (18.0)
2. Consumer's potential to lose public
 assistance (e.g., S.S.D.I., Medicare) 99 (15.6)
3. Consumer's lack of family support 92 (14.5)
4. Consumer's lack of transportation 89 (9.9)
5. Employer's limited knowledge of the
 abilities of persons with disabilities 75 (14.0)
6. Consumer's lack of motivation to work 64 (10.1)
7. Consumer's poor work history 59 (9.3)
8. The medical instability of the consumer's
 disability 42 (6.6)


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Kenneth C. Hergenrather

The George Washington University

Scott D. Rhodes

Wake Forest University Health Sciences

Randal S. McDaniel

Clarence D. Brown

Auburn University

Kenneth C. Hergenrather, Ph.D., MRC, MSEd, Department of Counseling/Human and Organizational Studies, Graduate School of Education and Human Development, The George Washington University, 2134 G St. NW.; Room 318, Washington, DC 20037. Email: hergenkc@gwu.edu.
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Title Annotation:Vocational Outcomes of Supported Employment
Author:Brown, Clarence D.
Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2003
Words:5758
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