Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Social Work

Major Professor

Ruth W. Sellards

Committee Members

Dr. Gideon W. Fryer, Jeanette C. Berry


Area of Investigation

Milieu therapy, defined as a scientific manipulation of the environment aimed at producing changes in the personality of the patient, has been used extensively in psychiatric hospitals, in work with children, and in various residential settings. This study was designed to explore the milieu and the services of the Florence Crittenton Agency, Knoxville, Tennessee, with emphasis on examining the maternity home as a setting for milieu therapy. The study of the milieu included: (1) the organization and functioning of the agency; (2) the residence; (3) the residential peer group; and (4) the services, including: (a) the social casework services; (b) the medical-nursing program; (c) the religious program; (d) the recreational activities; and (e) the educational program.

Methods and Procedures of Data Collection

The study population included only the unmarried mothers, who had been in residence for at least one month prior to, or during the study period from November 1, 1967, to January 20, 1968, in the Florence Crittenton Agency, Knoxville, Tennessee.

An interview schedule, developed by the writer, was used as a guide in the interviews with the thirty-six residents to obtain their reactions to the maternity home and to the services provided in the setting. Characteristics of the individual residents in the study population were obtained from the agency’s application forms.

The writer served as a social worker in the Florence Crittenton Agency during the study period and further information was obtained from the writer’s observations and examination of the milieu.

Summary of the Findings

The characteristics of the study population revealed that the agency served a homogeneous group, whose common profile could be described as follows: single girls, twenty years old, Caucasian, Protestant, college students, in their first pregnancies; they were middle children from unbroken homes; their mothers were housewives; and, their fathers were employed in professional or white collar positions.

The majority of the prospective residents viewed the maternity home as a morbid, punitive place before admission. They sought the maternity home for protection rather than therapeutic purposes. After one month’s residence all the unmarried mothers considered the maternity home protective and in varying degrees it was considered therapeutic. The residence itself was considered adequate by the majority of the study population.

The social casework services were recognized as having value but some questions were raised as to the nature of the casework approach and the abilities of certain residents to receive maximum benefits from casework services. The medical-nursing program was recognized as providing high quality services, but the residents’ priority on this service could also be explained by their attempts to meet psychological needs through focusing on physical needs. The religious and educational programs were considered adequate. Recreational activities were available but problems were involved in motivating certain residents to benefit from opportunities.

A person trained in social group work would be an asset in coordinating the recreational program and in more adequately utilizing the “milieu” to facilitate the total therapeutic process. Alternative methods to casework as the treatment of choice were needed. The stigma of out-of-wedlock pregnancy was a factor inhibiting the therapeutic benefits to the residents from maternity home care.

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