Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Dr. Kia J. Bentley


Hoarding in the community involves substantial cluttering and impaired functioning, often exposing the hoarder to extensive health and safety risks. This research, based on Functionalism social theory, explores the three elements of hoarding—relentless acquisition, intense possessiveness of objects, and a reluctance to discard possessions—as a sociocultural phenomenon. The mixed methods methodology entailed a quantitative study involving a survey completed by 134 adult protective services workers throughout Virginia and a qualitative study of five randomly-selected adult protective services workers who volunteered for in-depth interviews.Findings revealed that adult protective services workers come in contact with very severe cases of hoarding, with over two-thirds of the cases cited having extremely hazardous, unsafe, and cluttered living conditions. Similar to other research studies, hoarding was most prevalent among elderly women and the most common objects hoarded included printed materials such as newspapers, magazines, and junk mail. Factor analyses resulted in three factors with high loadings and correlations, particularly the factor that associates hoarding with a relentless need or desire to acquire more possessions. Content analyses of the qualitative data found that workers recognized several ways in which hoarding was functional, including emotional attachment to possessions, reducing stress, and providing meaning and identity. The mixed methods approach demonstrated that adult protective services workers tend to ascribe mental illness explanations to many hoarding cases, often equating hoarding to an addiction, although other published research finds only a nebulous connection between mental illness and hoarding behavior.This research corroborates other studies that find that belief systems underlie hoarding behaviors, particularly how hoarders' possessions provide comfort and security; possessions are considered functional, valuable, and irreplaceable; and that the owner is responsible for maintaining control over possessions. The findings of this study have implications for social work practice and treatment models.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Social Work Commons