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Role Conflict among Residents of Disadvantaged Neighborhoods in Israel: The impact of Gender, Empowerment and Community Voluntarism

Wed, July 13, 4:30 to 6:00pm, TBA


This study examined the contributions of gender, empowerment and community voluntarism to role conflict among residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods in Israel.
The theoretical framework of the research was role theory. Role theory refers to the social status of individuals at a given moment and defines role as a system of normative expectations of society determined by this status. Role theory is a tool for understanding human behaviors and the social processes that these behaviors affect (Biddle & Thomas, 1979). These behaviors are maintained through communicative interaction and the outcome of negotiations between the role holder and the role system; that is, the people in the environment with whom the communication is held (Shumate & Fulk, 2004).
The study applied role theory to persons living in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Israel. Disadvantaged neighborhoods are usually located outside of the social power system. Such neighborhoods are characterized by constant deficits and limited access to resources. Their inhabitants typically face many challenges, such as co-existing with disadvantaged migrant groups, poverty, housing problems, a neglected environment, and complex social problems. The culture created by these challenges, in turn, affects the various roles held by family members. The literature suggests that community volunteers who volunteer in their disadvantaged neighborhoods gain an increased sense of empowerment (Itzhaky& York, 2000).
The research sample was comprised of 225 respondents who lived in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Of these, 148 (65.8%) were community activists and 77 (34.2%) were not. The data were collected by means of a questionnaire. A two-way univariate analysis (ANOVA) test, multi-step linear regression analysis, and interaction analyses were used to analyze the data (Bar, Haim, 2017; Enders, Craig, 2010).
The main finding of this study indicated that community volunteers showed higher empowerment in comparison to non-community volunteers and experienced less conflict between their various roles. Furthermore, the findings showed an interaction between gender and voluntarism on the role conflict measure which indicates that volunteering women face lower role conflict in comparison to their non-volunteering counterparts, while volunteering had no interaction effect across men.
This study emphasizes that community voluntarism is an important source of empowerment within disadvantaged neighborhoods. Among women, community voluntarism facilitates better coping with role conflicts created by volunteering itself, and by family and work roles. This reflects the advantage of empowered women in comparison to men. As such, these findings can also help promote empowerment among the population within disadvantaged neighborhoods in other Western countries. The research demonstrates that in disadvantaged neighborhoods, residents, especially women, should be recruited and encouraged by their social workers to volunteer in their communities.