Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Exploring Stress, Burnout, and Job Dissatisfaction in Secondary School Teachers

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Exploring Stress, Burnout, and Job Dissatisfaction in Secondary School Teachers

Article excerpt

Over the last few decades, one of the issues that has received the greatest attention by researchers within the field of social sciences has undoubtedly been the health-work pairing. Indeed, although the concern for health (or to be more precise, for the lack of health) has a 'long past' and has characterized the historical evolution of our discipline, its link with the occupational domain can only be described as belonging to a 'near present'. With these characterizing features, occupational malaise emerges with an unprecedented strength to become the cornerstone on which many studies interested in occupational health lay their foundations. Those in the teaching profession, as well as those from other professional areas (health workers, for instance) have placed themselves -according to the evidence available (see Kyriacou, 2001; Maslach, Jackson, & Leiter, 1996; Zhang, 2009)- at the heart of the influence of occupational malaise. Furthermore, different studies (Howard & Johnson, 2004; Lackritz, 2004) have documented the growing incidence and prevalence of occupational malaise amongst secondary school teachers, the high (occupational, health, social) costs that this phenomenon entails, and, not less important, the urgent need to design preventive and intervention proposals whose efficiency is guaranteed. All this confirms this issue as one of the main contemporary challenges.

From the always necessary retrospective approach that provides us with an overview of the status quo of the phenomenon under study, thus enabling us to throw light on the main findings; the questions that need to be tackled as well as the lines of work that should be pursued in future research, we will be outlining some brief considerations on the strengths and weaknesses that characterize this field of work.

The difficulty in conceptually demarcating the field of study is one of the main obstacles of the study. Occupational malaise, judging from the review of empirical evidence, arises as a polysemous and pervasive notion (for some, occupational stress is its best instantiation, for others it is burnout while some others argue that job dissatisfaction is the closest indicator). In other words, occupational malaise is seen in the literature as an "omnibus" notion as it often covers a number of different adverse manifestations of occupational experience: occupational stress, burnout and job dissatisfaction. We concur with Esteve, Franco, & Vera (1995) when they claim that the term teaching malaise (malestar docente) "is used as the most inclusive notion of those found in current literature to describe the permanent, negative effects that affect the personality of the teacher" (p. 23).

Another weakness in the field, which is closely related to conceptual aspects, is the split or divide that exists between what is posited as healthy for achieving a true insight into this issue and what is actually done. Specifically, although at a theoretical level the suitability of distinguishing between the different manifestations of occupational malaise is upheld (see, for instance, Lens & Jesus, 1999; Rudow, 1999), in practice very few studies adopt this suggestion. Rudow (1999), in an outstanding review of the literature, points out that it is important for future research to determine the differences and commonalities between stress and burnout. The analysis of the associated variables in relation to each of the phenomena (stress, burnout and job dissatisfaction) is, in the opinion of many authors (e.g., Capel, 1987; Sharpley, Dua, Reynolds, & Acosta, 1995), yet another important hindrance for the field.

In any event, and as we have already noted, the evolution of this field of knowledge has encountered not only hindrances along the way but also important strengths that contribute to its vitality and expansion.

The confirmation of the 'multicausality' of occupational malaise has been one such strength that has consolidated the field of occupational malaise in the last few decades. …

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