European Journal of Psychology of Education

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 511–528 | Cite as

Burned out to drop out: Exploring the relationship between school burnout and school dropout

  • Miia BaskEmail author
  • Katariina Salmela-Aro


This paper examines the development of school burnout among Finnish youth aged 16–18, specifically with regard to the following three components: a cynical attitude toward the school, feelings of inadequacy as a student, and exhaustion at school. There is evidence of an increase in all three components over time, but only among students on the academic track. There appear to be differences in burnout levels between those who drop out from school and those who do not, and the risk of an individual with high levels of cynicism or feelings of inadequacy dropping out is clearly higher than among those who score low on these two components. When various explanatory variables are controlled for, cynicism still remains a significant factor explaining drop out, and a low grade point average appears to be a major explanatory variable for school dropout. This study is especially interesting in the context of Finland, known for its equality-striving and high-quality educational system. Finnish youth, compared with youth in many other countries, nevertheless have a low level of in-school well-being. We use the Finnish Educational Transitions data (N = 878) collected in four waves, the first three on an annual basis and the fourth 5 years after the first one.


Academic track Longitudinal School burnout School dropout Vocational track 



The authors would like to thank Ingrid Schoon for her valuable comments on this article. This research was funded by the Jacobs Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisboa, Portugal and Springer Science+Business Media BV 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social StudiesKarlstad UniversityKarlstadSweden
  2. 2.Helsinki Collegium for Advanced StudiesUniversity of HelsinkiUniversity of HelsinkiFinland

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