York University, Toronto, Canada

Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Running Head: Predicting Burnout

Anxiety, Stress, and Coping: An International Journal, Volume 9, 1996, Issue 3, 261-275.

Address correspondence to: Ronald Burke, Ph.D., York University, Faculty of Administrative Studies, 4700 Keele St., North York, Ontario, Canada M3J 1P3


This longitudinal study examined antecedents and consequences of psychological-burnout among 362 teachers and school administrators. Antecedents included red tape, disruptive students and lack of supervisor support. Consequences of burnout included heart symptoms and depressive mood. Respondents completed questionnaires sent to them at their schools at two points in time, one year apart. LISREL analyses indicated that the predictors had significant relationships with burnout levels one year later and that burnout served as a mediator between the predictors and emotional and physical health-outcomes.

Keywords: Burnout, stress, social support, anxiety, depression, teachers

To avoid copyright violation, the major part of this paper has been cut.

The present longitudinal study examines the relative importance of several predictors of teacher burnout. In addition, it extends previous research by examining a more complex path model incorporating emotional and physical health consequences of burnout. Although there are several studies relating stress, social support, and emotional health to burnout, few longitudinal studies have examined these relationships at the level of latent variables in a sample of teachers (for an overview see Kleiber and Enzmann, 1990).


The present results confirmed significant differences between certain groups. For example, men had higher scores than women on depersonalization and emotional exhaustion subscales. These data are in line with results from several other studies. Higher depersonalization has been reported in male public contact employees when compared to female contact employees (Maslach & Jackson, 1986). Schwab and Iwanicki (1982) have also found that male teachers, more than female teachers, report more frequent and intense feelings of depersonalization towards their students. In a study of teachers with children, Greenglass and Burke (1990) reported significantly higher depersonalization in men than in women. Depersonalization in men may be seen as an ineffective coping from which allows men to continue their work yet remain untouched by their feelings. Other data in the present study indicate that teachers had higher burnout levels than school administrators except for the Personal Accomplishment component. It may be that teachers, compared to administrators, are asked to assume multiple and often contradictory roles, including academic instruction, maintaining classroom decorum, attending to students' social and emotional well-being, and meeting the often conflicting expectations of parents, students, administrators and the community. The role of the school administrator, on the other hand, may be more clear-cut, with less involvement with students, less ambiguity in expectations and greater control over one's job. The main contribution of the present research lies in the confirmation of a dynamic path model that includes latent variables at two points in time. This model proposed that five antecedents at Wave 1 played a role in the prediction of burnout at Wave 2 one year later. These were: work stressors, such as disruptive students and red tape, lack of supervisor support, lack of social integration, and the prevalence of job-related self-doubt. In the total sample, red tape and disruptive students were the strongest predictors. However, when examining subsamples of men, women, administrators and teachers, certain trends were observed. For example, among teachers where the number of men and women were approximately equal, burnout was primarily predicted by disruptive students. Administrator burnout was mainly due to red tape, an expected result given that administration often involved bureaucratic duties and acted as a liaison among various levels in the organization. For men, the best predictors of burnout were red tape and self-doubts, whereas for women disruptive students emerged as the best predictor of burnout one year later. Since three quarters of the female sample were teachers, it is not surprising that their burnout was predicted by disruptive students, the primary predictor of teacher burnout. Red tape may have predicted to burnout in males given that 40% of the male sample were administrators for whom red tape was shown earlier to predict burnout. Since far fewer women occupied the administrator role (25%), red tape was not a significant predictor of burnout in women. These data indicate that predictors of burnout depend primarily on one's social roles including the occupational role which is often confounded with gender (Greenglass, 1982, 1991). Gender-related effects may be making results due primarily to one's role in the workplace, as these data illustrate. Considering the health consequences of burnout, the strongest association of burnout was with depressive mood. Although depression and burnout are different phenomena, they also overlap to a certain extent. Empirical research on the discriminant validity of both concepts shows that particularly emotional exhaustion is substantively related to depression. While burnout and depression share many aspects in common in that they are both a multidimensional phenomenon, at the same time burnout is unlike depression in that it is restricted to the job setting (Schaufeli et al., 1993).

Combining the three components of the MBI, as was done in the present research, may be of limited value (Leiter & Durup, 1992). Factor analyses have confirmed Maslach and Jackson's (1986) three-factor structure of burnout for human service workers (Leiter, 1988). Important relationships between components of burnout, antecedents and consequences may not be evident when the MBI subscales are combined. The three MBI subscales have been shown to have different correlates and relationships with various outcome variables (Greenglass, Fiksenbaum, & Burke, 1994; Leiter, 1991, 1993). The present analysis was not designed to elaborate the notion of distinct features of burnout. Rather, it simply used existing scales to provide the broadest possible operationalization of the burnout construct. The three MBI subscales became part of a four-indicator factor, and emotional exhaustion turned out to be the major component having a loading of .78, thus confirming the view that this is indeed the key aspect for burnout (Burke & Richardsen, 1993, 1995; Leiter, 1991, 1993). One of the main contributions of this research is that it confirms burnout as a process that develops over time, in this case, one year. The results have significant implications for the design of intervention procedures which could be aimed at the modification of stressors at an earlier time in order to alleviate a teacher's burnout one year later.


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This research was supported in part by the Faculty of Administrative Studies, York University, the Department of Psychology, York University, and Imperial Oil Limited. The authors are indebted to the Canada Council, which has conferred the John Diefenbaker Award upon Ralf Schwarzer, allowing him to conduct collaborative research at York University. We thank the teachers and administrators for their participation in the project.

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