Elizabeth Essex, Ph.D.

  Professor Emeritus
  Office Location: G113
  College: CHHS

Social Work


For me, the most rewarding aspect of academic work is the opportunity for discovery and growth. I gain new knowledge, perspectives and ideas from my students and colleagues, just as they learn from me.  As a teacher in a department of social work, I encourage students to critically examine social work practice and assumptions, and I emphasize the importance of lifelong learning. As a scholar, I strive to follow these same practices, which I believe are essential for the well-being and continued development of the social work profession.    

Prior to my life as an academic professional, I worked over 14 years as a social work practitioner in Pennsylvania, New York and Wisconsin.  My practice experience serving diverse populations in a variety of settings provided a strong underpinning for my scholarly endeavors in both teaching and research. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1998, and subsequently became a faculty member, first at the University of Illinois at Chicago and then at Governors State University.     

My research has focused primarily on older adults, disabilities and family caregiving.  Early in my academic career, I conducted and published a number of studies on aging parents of adults with developmental disabilities.  Most of these addressed the role of fathers, differences between mothers and fathers and implications for service delivery.  In 2002, I was one of 10 social work academicians nationwide to be named a Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholar.  The award included funding for a study of frail older case management clients who live with younger family members also in need of care (i.e., younger adults with disabilities and/or minors).

More recently, through a GSU University Research Grant, I conducted a study on the needs of older Arab Americans and their younger caregivers residing in the Chicago Southwest suburbs.  From 2008 through 2011, I was external evaluator for the federally funded “Career Tracks to Employment” program of SouthSTAR Services, a community agency serving individuals with disabilities.  I have also co-authored articles on end-of life care and on Chinese elderly.  In addition, I have authored publications related to school social work, and was co-investigator on a federally funded study titled “Substance abusing, court involved mothers: A preliminary study.”    

At GSU, I primarily teach courses related to social welfare policy and program evaluation.  Additionally, I developed and gained approval from the Illinois State Board of Education for a School Social Work Concentration, launched in fall 2012.  I am coordinator of the concentration and teach the “Policy for School Social Workers” course. I am also an active member of the GSU Faculty Senate and the Senate’s Education Policies Committee.    

Much of my research can be considered a form of community service, since it has involved collaboration with community agencies.  Additionally, I have served as a volunteer in a number of community organizations.  Most notably, since 2007, I have served on the Advisory Council of AgeOptions, the Suburban Cook County Area Agency on Aging.  


 Articles in Refereed Journals    

Li, L.W., Essex, E. L., Long, Y. (2014). Quality of life as perceived by older persons with chronic illness in rural and urban Shandong, China. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 29, 417-428.    

Li., L. W., Long, Y., Essex, E. L., Sui, Y., & Gao, L. (2012). Elderly Chinese and their family caregivers’ perceptions of good care: A qualitative study in Shandong, China.  Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 55, 609-625.     

Chung, K., Essex, E. L., & Samson, L. (2009). Does caregiver knowledge matter for hospice enrollment and beyond? Pilot study of minority hospice patients. American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine, 26, 165-171.    

Chung, K., Essex, E. L., & Samson, L. (2008). Ethnic variation in timing of hospice referral: Does having no informal caregiver matter? Journal of Palliative Medicine, 11, 484-491.    

Essex, E. L., & Biegel, D. (2007). Older case management clients with younger family members in need of care: Interdependencies and well-being. Care Management Journals:Journal of Case Management, 8, 162-170.    

Essex, E. L., Petras, D., & Massat, C. M. (2006). Predictors of loneliness among court-involved and substance abusing mothers. Women & Criminal Justice, 17, 63-74.    

Essex, E. L., & Hong, J. (2005). Older caregiving parents: Division of household labor, marital satisfaction, and caregiver burden. Family Relations, 54, 448-460.             

  Essex, E. L., & Massat, C. R. (2005). Preparing school social workers for their wider role: Policy as practice. School Social Work Journal, 28, 1-19.   

Essex, E. L., Newsome, W. S., & Moses, H. (2004). Caring for grandparent-headed families: Challenges and opportunities for school social workers. School Social Work Journal, 28, 1-19.    

Essex, E. L. (2002). Mothers and fathers of adults with mental retardation: Feelings of intergenerational closeness. Family Relations, 51, 156-165.    

Petras, D. D., Massat, C. R., & Essex, E. L. (2002). Overcoming hopelessness and social isolation: The ENGAGE model for working with neglecting families toward permanence. Child Welfare, 81, 225-248.  

Essex, E. L., Seltzer, M. M., & Krauss, M. W. (1999). Differences in coping effectiveness and well-being among aging mothers and fathers of adults with mental retardation.  American Journal on Mental Retardation, 104, 545-563.    

Essex, E. L., Seltzer, M. M., & Krauss, M. W. (1997). Residential transitions of adults with mental retardation: Predictors of waiting list use and placement. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 101, 613-629.    

Campbell, J. A., & Essex, E. L. (1994). Factors affecting parents in their future planning for a son or daughter with developmental disabilities. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 29, 222-228.     

Campbell, J. A., Essex, E. L. & Held, G. (1994). Issues in chemical dependency treatment and after-care for people with learning differences. Health and Social Work, 19, 63-70.    

Book Chapters    

Essex, E., Shalabi, I., & Adam, N. (2010). Identifying the social service needs of Arab American elders.  In E. P. Stanford & G. Koskovich (Eds.), Diversity & aging in the 21st century: The power of inclusion (pp. 89-93). Washington, DC:  AARP.    

Massat, C. R., Essex, E. L., Hare, I., & Harris Rome, S. (2009). The developing social, political, and economic context for school social work. In C. R. Massat, R. Constable, S. McDonald, & J. P. Flynn (Eds.), School social work: Practice, policy, and research (7th ed., pp. 114-139). Chicago: Lyceum.   

  Essex, E. L., Petras, D. & Massat, C. M. (2006). Predictors of loneliness among court-involved and substance abusing mothers. In J. A. Swartz, P. O’Brien, & A. J. Lurigio (Eds.), Drugs, women, and justice: Roles of the criminal justice system for drug-affected women (pp. 63-74). Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press. (Also published in Women& Criminal Justice as listed above under “articles”).    

Hsieh, C., & Essex, E. (2006). Measuring client satisfaction among older adults and families. In B. Berkman (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of social work in health and agingpp. 1009-1017). New York: Oxford University Press.    

Essex, E. L., Seltzer, M. M., & Krauss, M. W. (2002). Fathers as caregivers for adult children with mental retardation. In B. J. Kramer & E. H. Thompson (Eds.), Men as caregivers: Theory, research, and service implications (pp. 250-268). New York: Springer.

Seltzer, G. B., & Essex, E. L. (1998). Service needs of persons with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities. In S. M. Allen & V. Mor (Eds.), Living in the community with disability: Service needs, use, and systems (pp. 197-218). New York: Springer.

Newsletter Articles    

Essex, E. L., Adam, N. M., Moukahal, W., & Tabahi, S. (2009, December). Exploring the needs of Arab American older adults. What’s Hot,Issue 1: Minority Aging Research, p. 13. [Newsletter of the Gerontological Society of America]. (Published abstract from  paper presentation at the GSA Annual Scientific Meeting in November 2009).    

Petras, D., Massat, C. M., & Essex, E. L. (2006). Service needs of substance abusing mothers involved with the criminal justice system. Women, Girls, and Criminal Justice, 7(5), 73-77.    

Essex, E. L., Seltzer, M. M., & Krauss, M.W. (1995). Launching patterns in families of adults with developmental disabilities. AddVantage, 7(1), 1. Newsletter of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with Mental Retardation, University of Illinois at Chicago.  


Syllabus for course, Social Welfare Policy and Services, posted on CSWE Gero-Ed Center web site as model for infusion of gerontology into a foundation policy course (2005 to present; retrieve at http://www.cswe.org/default.aspx?id=18973)  

Doctoral Dissertation    

Essex, E. (1998). Parental caregivers of adults with mental retardation: The experience of older fathers and mothers.(Doctoral dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1998). Dissertation Abstracts International, 59-08, 3208.    


Williams, R. T., & Essex. E. (1992). Directory of Wisconsin farm and rural community groups. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension.

Link to Full CV