Psycho-Emotional and Organizational Aspects of Burnout in a Sample of Romanian Teachers

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Burnout is an extremely debilitating mental health problem that affects not only the quality of life of those who suffer from it, their interpersonal relationships, but also the quality of their work. These aspects are extremely relevant in case of schoolteachers whose aim is to teach and shape the life of children and adolescents. The major objective of the present paper is to investigate the phenomenon of burnout in a sample of Romanian school teachers, identify some of the factors associated with it, thus delineating a portrait of those who suffer from this problem.

KEYWORDS: burnout, self-efficacy, areas of work-life, stress, anxiety, depression.

INTRODUCTION

Teaching has always been a respected practice, dedicated to the development of others: children, youth, and adults - the entire society. Those who were drawn to this profession strongly believed that they could make a difference in the lives of others. Thus, in alliance with parents, teachers play an important part in shaping the values and attitudes of young children (Ramsey, 2000).

However, because of rapidly changing work environments (Amundson, 2006), the boundaries between the roles teachers play have been blurred. A teacher is not only an educator and a model - he/she is also a social worker, a counselor, a guide who supervises and teaches appropriate behaviors regarding health, language, and correct attitudes (Brante, 2009).

In the same time, teachers are expected to continually adapt and keep up with new information and practices, to fulfill multiple demands in relatively short periods of time, acquire modern pedagogical resources, and obtain high educational results with their students. The community, parents, and supervisors have different expectations, which pressure teachers to perform at their best. Unfortunately, these increased responsibilities imposed by the educational system are not accompanied by specific changes in training programs or opportunities to cope with these demands (Travers & Cooper, 1996). In this context, early signs of occupational stress in the educational area started to appear in Romania as well.

Stressfulness of teaching is proven by the growing prevalence of burnout in this population. Generally, 60% to 70% of the teachers present symptoms related to stress, and approximately 30% present distinct symptoms of burnout (Hakanen, Bakker, & Schaufeli, 2006; Bauer, Stamm, Virnich, Wissing, Kriston, Muller, et al., 2005). Interestingly, teaching was recently classified as one of the most stressful occupations, among other occupations which involve interpersonal relationships and emotional labor (Johnson, Cooper, Cartwright, Donald, Taylor, & Millet, 2005).

Pioneering studies defined burnout in teachers as similar to general stress reactions (McGuire, 1979). However, advanced research delimited individual and work-related factors that could cause burnout (e.g., like age, gender differences, age of children taught, workload, etc., see Chang, 2009). In this early research, workload appeared to be the most salient aspect that contributed to burnout and therefore a couple of models examined teacher burnout in relation to workload (for example, the Demand-Control Model proposed by Karasek in 1979, later expanded to Job Demands-Resources Model by Demorouti, Bakker, Nachreiner, & Schaufeli, 2001; also see Chang, 2009).

Somewhat later, in the 1990's, theoretical models started to examine the interaction of teacher burnout with the work environment, where burnout was defined as a function of "prolonged job strain that results from the inadequacy of coping resources and the absence of equitable rewards in relation to the demands of work-related stressors" (Blasé, 1982, p. 109). This idea was carried on to recent research as well. Maslach's perspective in defining burnout as a multidimensional construct became the dominant paradigm. This author defined burnout as a "psychological syndrome which implies a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job", and which includes the following three dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy (Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001, p. …