UBC Theses and Dissertations
Stress, attributions, and coping : predictors of emotional exhaustion in male post-secondary instructors Stephens, Eileen
This study used a learned-helplessness model to examine burnout. Two hierarchical multiple regression analyses tested the extent to which job stress, attribution style, and coping strategies were associated with burnout (i.e., emotional exhaustion) in male instructors (N = 108), aged 30 and 55 (M = 44.1), employed at a post-secondary institution in western Canada. It was expected that those attribution styles and coping strategies associated with greater "personal" and "universal" helplessness would be associated with greater emotional exhaustion, whereas those associated with greater "morale" and "enthusiasm" would be associated with lower emotional exhaustion Specifically , greater characterological (internal-stable) and task difficulty (external-stable) attributions were expected to be associated with greater emotional exhaustion under high-stress conditions. Under low-stress conditions, greater behavioural (internal-unstable) attributions were expected to be associated with greater emotional exhaustion. Greater emotional exhaustion was also expected to be associated with greater escape-cognitive and escape-active coping ratios, but with lower control-cognitive and control-active coping ratios. Those attribution styles and coping strategies associated with personal helplessness, i.e, characterological (internal-stable) attributions and escape-cognitive coping, were expected to make stronger contributions to emotional exhaustion than were those associated with universal helplessness, i.e., task difficulty (external-stable) attributions and escape-active coping. In addition, control-cognitive coping was expected to be more negatively associated with emotional exhaustion than was control-active coping. Results indicated that greater escape-active coping was associated with greater emotional exhaustion. The contribution of the universal-helplessness product-term (stress by externalstable attributions) approached significance. Under high-stress conditions, greater task difficulty (external-stable) attributions were associated with greater emotional exhaustion. The enthusiasm product-term (stress by internal-unstable attributions) also contributed significantly to emotional exhaustion. Under low-stress conditions, greater behavioural (internal-unstable) attributions were associated with greater emotional exhaustion. The negative association between control-cognitive coping and emotional exhaustion approached significance. Results suggested that burnout may involve universal rather than personal helplessness. This finding was not anticipated. Results also supported the theory that internal-unstable (behavioural) attributions may represent a vulnerability to burnout. Longitudinal studies would need to be conducted to test any causal implications of the present findings.
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