Teachers' attributions for stress and their relationships with burnout



Publication Details

McCormick, J. & Barnett, K. (2011). Teachers' attributions for stress and their relationships with burnout. International Journal of Educational Management, 25 (3), 278-293.


Purpose – It may be argued that some shared psychological mechanisms (attribution) and structures (schemas) are likely to play a role in how individuals perceive stress. This paper seeks to propose and test some hypothesised relationships between stress attribution domains and burnout dimensions. Design/methodology/approach – The participants were 416 classroom teachers in 38 randomly selected high schools in New South Wales, Australia. Two established instruments, the Maslach Burnout Inventory, and the Teachers’ Attribution of Responsibility for Stress Scale were employed in a postal survey. Data were analysed using confirmatory factor analysis and multilevel modelling. Findings – Most variance was at the individual level, supporting the view that the stress and burnout were overwhelmingly psychological phenomena. Findings suggest the centrality of stress attributed to student misbehaviour in predicting each of the three dimensions of burnout: depersonalisation, emotional exhaustion, and personal accomplishment. Occupational stress attributed to personal failings also negatively predicted personal accomplishment. Practical implications – The principal implication for practice is that greater emphasis should be placed on effective management of student behaviour when assisting teachers at risk of burnout. Originality/value – This original study provides new insights into attribution schemas to assist understanding teachers’ perceptions and reporting of their occupational stress and burnout in an education system.

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