UNDERSTANDING AND MEASURING CARING
Messa, Emily A.
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This study sought to understand whether prolonged involvement in activities that potentially elicit generative behaviors had an impact on the overall generativity of university staff. To date, the research on an ethic of care at universities has been largely qualitative, and a review of the literature on the psychosocial construct of care in adults notes the need for study of adults before and after exposure to activities that may potentially elicit generative, or caring, behaviors. New instruments in psychology that measure caring concern and behaviors provided potential for the empirical study of care in university supervisory staff. Using two instruments from the psychological study of adulthood generativity, the Loyola Generativity Scale (McAdams & de St. Aubin, 1992) and the Generative Behavior Checklist (McAdams & de St. Aubin, 1992), this study sought to provide important contributions to the study of adulthood generativity and higher education theory about how communities of caring staff can be developed. The sample (n=15), randomly drawn from professional, supervisory staff at a large, urban research university, were divided into treatment and control groups. Treatment group participants were directed to participate in campus activities that benefitted students during the fall semester 2011. Control group participants were not provided directed activities. Additionally, individual interviews were conducted with the participants in the treatment and control group to understand underlying themes and potential future directions for research that blends the psychological construct of care and the development of a community of caring university staff. These individual interviews became an important component of the study as the unexpectedly low number of participants limited the analyses that could be done with the survey data. Observed themes from the individual interviews were compared to the literature on adult generativity in order to provide additional insight for the importance of the creation of caring staff communities to institutions of higher education. In the study, the overall LGS mean score for the treatment group increased .57 points (on a scale from 0 to 60 points) between administrations and the overall mean score for the control group increased .13 points during the same timeframe. For the GBC, the overall treatment group mean increased .30 points (on a scale from 0-80 points) while the overall control group mean decreased .40 points between administrations of the pre- and post-tests. These findings were consistent with the individual interviews as those who participated in activities communicated their desire to continue to teach and mentor university students, became aware of student fears and stress by interacting with students, believed they were connected to the future, derived a sense of well-being through their participation, and deeply believed in the continued successful future of the university as a place where caring and transformation occur.