Social Comparison and Perceived Breach of Psychological Contract: Their Effects on Burnout in a Multigroup Analysis

By Cantisano, Gabriela Topa; Domínguez, J. Francisco Morales et al. | The Spanish Journal of Psychology, January 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Social Comparison and Perceived Breach of Psychological Contract: Their Effects on Burnout in a Multigroup Analysis


Cantisano, Gabriela Topa, Domínguez, J. Francisco Morales, García, J. Luis Caeiro, The Spanish Journal of Psychology


This study focuses on the mediator role of social comparison in the relationship between perceived breach of psychological contract and burnout. A previous model showing the hypothesized effects of perceived breach on burnout, both direct and mediated, is proposed. The final model reached an optimal fit to the data and was confirmed through multigroup analysis using a sample of Spanish teachers (N = 401) belonging to preprimary, primary, and secondary schools. Multigroup analyses showed that the model fit all groups adequately.

Keywords: perceived breach of psychological contract, social comparison, burnout, structural equation modeling, multigroup analysis

Este estudio se centra en el papel de la comparación social en la relación entre la ruptura percibida del contrato psicológico y el burnout. Se propone un modelo previo mostrando los efectos hipotetizados, tanto directos como mediados, de la ruptura percibida sobre el burnout. El modelo final alcanzó un ajuste óptimo a los datos y se confirmó a través del análisis multigrupo usando una muestra de profesores españoles (N = 401) pertenecientes a escuelas infantiles, primarias y secundarias. Los análisis multigrupo mostraron que el modelo se ajusta adecuadamente a todos los grupos.

Palabras clave: ruptura percibida del contrato psicológico, comparación social, burnout, modelos de ecuaciones estructurales, análisis multigrupo

In the last few decades, investigators' interest in the role of social comparison in people who face some kind of threat has increased progressively. The direction of the comparison has been the main object of these works, focusing on whether individuals tend to compare themselves with those who are worse off than they are (downward comparison) or with those who are better off (upward comparison). Studies with various populations that experience threats, either from the perspective of health, such as patients with rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, infertility, and chronic pain (for a review, see Tennen, McKee, & Affleck, 2000), or from the perspective of work, such as health staff in psychiatric institutions, professional military staff, nurses, and teachers (Buunk & Ybema, 1997, 2003; Buunk, Ybema, Gibbons, & Ipenburg, 2001; Buunk, Ybema, Van der Zee, Schaufeli, & Gibbons, 2001), have shown that downward comparisons are more frequent and that the perception of being better off than one's peers seems to be related to subjective well-being.

The identification and contrast model (Buunk & Ybema, 1997) indicated that social comparison has diverse effects depending on whether people feel identified with or opposite to the people with whom they compare themselves. However, despite the renewed impulse that this perspective has contributed to studies on social comparison, there are still some deficiencies. First, most works show consistent relations but very few of them propose broader causal models (Buunk, Zurriaga, González-Roma, & Subirats, 2003). Second, most of the works have focused on a limited range of results and have ignored antecedent variables of social comparison in specific contexts. Lastly, the empirical studies have focused on individual differences, ignoring the variables concerning the social context in which the comparison takes place.

The present study of populations by means of surveys is an attempt to correct some of these deficiencies by analyzing a model that considers certain person-context interaction variables to be the antecedents of social comparison, and it provides results on a personal level. Specifically, we analyze the mediator role of the processes of social comparison in teachers' perception of breach of psychological contract and the burnout syndrome experienced by these employees..

A psychological contract is a mutual agreement between two members of a relation about the terms of their reciprocal exchange based on a series of promises that both parts made when initiating the relation (Rousseau, 1995). …

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