Social Indicators Research

, Volume 122, Issue 3, pp 701–708 | Cite as

The Effect of Work Stress on Job Burnout Among Teachers: The Mediating Role of Self-efficacy



The psychological pressure of high strength, often cause teachers teaching dissatisfaction, absenteeism and employee turnover. The current study examined the impact of work stress on job burnout, mainly focused on confirmation of the mediator role of self-efficacy. A total of 387 middle school teachers were as participants involving in this research. Data were collected by using the Perceived Stress Scale, General Self-Efficacy Scale and Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey. The results revealed that both work stress and self-efficacy were significantly correlated with job burnout. Structural equation modeling indicated that self efficacy partially mediated work stress to job burnout. The final model also revealed significant both paths from work stress to job burnout through self efficacy. The findings extended prior researches and provided valuable evidence on how to promote mental health of teachers at the workplaces.


Work stress Job burnout Self efficacy Structural equation modeling 

1 Introduction

Job burnout refers to the state in which individuals experience physical and mental fatigue after working under heavy pressure (Maslach et al. 2001; Peng et al. 2014). Such concept was introduced in 1974 by Freudenberger, who considered job burnout as a symptom of emotional exhaustion that was commonly observed among individuals working in helping professions (Freudenberger 1974; Shih et al. 2013). Maslach et al. defined psychological syndrome as a result of a long-term experience of work and interpersonal burnout (Maslach and Jackson 1981; Pines and Maslach 1978). In general, job burnout is an extreme reaction that individuals experience when they cannot successfully cope with work pressure. This condition refers to an exhausted state of emotion, attitudes, and behavior that arises from a prolonged experience of stress.

Job burnout mostly occurs among people working in helping professions, such as nurses and teachers (Chiron et al. 2010; Maslach et al. 2001). Numerous studies show that teachers are among those professionals that face the greatest amount of pressure in their work (Abenavoli et al. 2013; Carson et al. 2010; Kyriacou 2001; Troman and Woods 2000). Some special factors in the school promote a high degree of psychological stress among teachers. Such psychological pressure often results in dissatisfaction, absenteeism, and employee turnover among teachers while making them experience various adverse reactions that are psychological (anxiety and depression), physiological (headache, tachycardia, excessive stress, and hypertension), or behavioral (alcoholism, smoking, lifestyle, and sleep problems) in nature, which further lead to the development of job burnout among these professionals (Friedman-Krauss et al. 2014; Lian et al. 2014; Roeser et al. 2013; Torsheim and Wold 2001). Therefore, pressure is among the direct causes of job burnout among teachers.

Self-efficacy refers to the speculation and judgment of whether an individual is capable of completing an action (Cupertino et al. 2012; Kamen et al. 2013). Self-efficacy theory has been increasingly employed by researchers in recent years to study job burnout as well as to explore the role of self-efficacy in the formation of job burnout (Consiglio et al. 2013). Leiter (1993) defined burnout as “a crisis of self-efficacy”, Chwalisz et al. (1992) found that teachers with low self-efficacy reported higher levels of job burnout as compared to teachers with high self-efficacy. Friedman and Farber (1992) found that those teachers who considered themselves poor in maintaining discipline in the classroom and a lower management capacity reported higher levels of job burnout as opposed to the teachers who considered themselves as having a higher management capacity. Furthermore, another study also found that the self-efficacy of teachers was a result of their job burnout, and that such factor functioned as a corrective action for job burnout (Egyed and Short 2006).

Given that stress and self-efficacy both induce job burnout among teachers; we investigate the features that are demonstrated in the relationship among pressure, self-efficacy, and job burnout of primary and secondary school teachers (Conen et al. 2012). Moreover, given that self-efficacy can play a corrective action on job burnout, we also determine whether working pressure affects job burnout by using teaching efficacy as an intermediary factor. This study attempts to discuss these issues thoroughly.

2 Methods

2.1 Participants and Procedure

Participants were 387 teachers from two middle schools, which consisted of 183 men and 204 women. The ages of students ranged from 30 to 35, with a mean of 32.77 (SD = 1.32). Participants completed the questionnaires in a classroom environment. From the 387 scales that were distributed and collected, 2 unfinished scales were excluded. All participants knew the research background, research purposes and the research significance, and provided their written informed consent before completing the measures. Participants received a pen for compensation.

2.2 Instruments

2.2.1 The Perceived Stress Scale

The Perceived Stress Scale is a self-report instrument that evaluates the level of perceived stress during the last month, and consists of 14 items with a 5-point response scale (0 = never, 1 = almost never, 2 = once in a while, 3 = often, 4 = very often). A higher score indicates a higher level of perceived stress (Cohen 1986). In this study, the Cronbach alpha coefficient for Perceived stress Scale was 0.85.

2.2.2 The General Self-Efficacy Scale

The General Self-Efficacy Scale consists of ten items assessing optimistic self-beliefs to cope with a variety of difficult demands in life with statements such as “I can usually handle whatever comes my way”. Respondents rate their agreement with each item on a 4-point scale (from 1 = not describe me at all to 4 = describes me to a great extent) (Schwarzer and Jerusalem 1995; Weber et al. 2013). In the present study, the Cronbach alpha coefficient for the GSE was 0.811.

2.2.3 Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey

The Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey, developed by Maslach et al. is a 15-item self-report measure of job burnout that includes three dimensions, namely, emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment (Schaufeli and Leiter 1996). The items are rated from 1 (never) to 7 (every day). Some items are “I have become less enthusiastic about my work,” and “I have become more cynical about whether my work contributes anything.” In this study, the Cronbach’s alpha coefficient for this scale was 0.89.

3 Results

3.1 Descriptive Statistics and Correlation Analysis

Firstly, the inter-correlations of all the latent variables were calculated to test the significant of correlation coefficient. Means, standard deviations, and inter-correlations for all the variables were presented in Table 1. The results showed that perceived stress was positively correlated with job burnout, and was negatively correlated with self efficacy. In addition, self efficacy and job burnout were also negatively correlated.
Table 1

Means, standard deviations, and correlations of the variables of interest







1. Perceived stress





2. Self efficacy






3. Job burnout






** p < 0.01

3.2 Measurement Model

Then, a two-step procedure introduced by Anderson and Gerbing (1988) was adapted to analyses the mediation effect in order to confirm the structural relations of the latent structured model. Firstly, the measurement model of the four latent variables was tested to assess the extent of goodness of fit represented by its indicators respectively. If index of confirmatory measurement model meet the requirements, then the maximum likelihood estimation would be used to test the SEM. The following four indices were utilized to evaluate the goodness of fit of the model: (a) Chi square statistic (χ2), χ2/df, (b) the standardized root mean square residual (SRMR), (c) the root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA), and (d) the comparative fit index (CFI) (Hu and Bentler 1999). In this study, a model was considered to have a good fit if all the path coefficients were significant at the level of 0.05, χ2/df was below 5, SRMR was below 0.08, RMSEA was below 0.08, and CFI was 0.95 or more.

CFA was adopted to assess whether the measurement model fit the sample data adequately or not. The fully measurement model included three latent constructs (perceived stress, self efficacy and job burnout) and nine observed variables. The test of the measurement model came into being a satisfactory fit to the data: χ2 (24, N = 385) = 36.49, χ2/df = 1.52; RMSEA = 0.037; SRMR = 0.029; and CFI = 0.99. All the factor loadings for the indicators on the latent variables were significant (p < 0.001), indicating that all the latent constructs were well represented by their indicators.

3.3 Structural Model

In the first step, the direct effect of the predictor variable (perceived stress) on the dependent variable (job burnout) without mediators was tested. The directly standardized path coefficient was significantly, β = 0.38, p < 0.01. Then the partially mediated model (see Fig. 1) which contained mediator (self efficacy) and a direct path from perceived stress to job burnout was tested. The meditational model showed a very good fit to the data, χ2 (24, N = 385) = 36.49, χ2/df = 1.52; RMSEA = 0.037; SRMR = 0.029; and CFI = 0.99. The effect of job stress on job burnout through self-efficacy was 37.65 %.
Fig. 1

Self efficacy mediates the effect of perceived stress on job burnout. *p < 0.05

3.4 The Confidence Interval of Direct and Indirect Effects

The mediating effect of core self evaluations between perceived stress and job burnout was tested for a significance by adopted the Bootstrap estimation procedure in AMOS (a bootstrap sample of 1,000 was specified). Table 2 shows the indirect effects and their associated 95 % confidence intervals. As shown in Table 2, perceived stress had significant direct effect on job burnout. In addition, the indirect effect of perceived stress on job burnout through self efficacy was also significant (empirical 95 % confidence interval does not overlap with zero).
Table 2

Direct and indirect effects and 95 % confidence intervals for the final model

Model pathways

Estimated effect

95 % CI

Lower bonds

Up bonds

Direct effect

 Perceived stress → self efficacy




 Perceived stress → job burnout




 Self efficacy → job burnout




Indirect effect

 Perceived stress → (self efficacy) → job burnout




4 Discussion

We find that when they are faced with a greater level of pressure in their work, teachers tend to develop lower self-efficacy and feel tired of working.

Several studies have identified stress as among the direct causes of job burnout among teachers. Dunham regarded job burnout as an extreme form of work-related stress, and considered job burnout as the product of irreconcilable stress response (Kyriacou 1987). At present, teachers are being pressured mainly by their work, role conflict, role ambiguity, relationship with students, relationship with colleagues, work overload, long working hours, and high work intensity, all of which cause mental and physical exhaustion, frustration, depression, and passive or indifferent perspectives toward life and work (Slick 1997; Yankelevich et al. 2012). When such work-related pressure is not relieved promptly and effectively, teachers will lose their passion for education and teaching, experience a state of extreme fatigue, completely lose their enthusiasm, and demonstrate passive, negative, or indifferent attitudes toward their students. Therefore, a high level of pressure can excessively consume the emotional and physical resources of teachers and ultimately lead them to a severe state of job burnout (Jou et al. 2013; Peng et al. 2013; Veldman et al. 2013).

A lower self-efficacy may also increase job burnout among teachers. This result is consistent with that of previous studies. Brissie et al. (1988) found that self-efficacy could predict the job burnout level of teachers (Evers et al. 2002); Glickman and Tamashiro (1982) found that teachers with low self-efficacy could experience a higher degree of job burnout and were most likely to leave the teaching profession. Efficacy pertains to the subjective perceptions and beliefs of teachers with regard to their capability to complete their teaching task and to teach their students well. This concept also pertains to the general perception and judgment of teachers toward the teaching and learning relationship, their role in the development of their students, and other issues. A highly negative self-evaluation causes teachers to develop a highly negative perception toward their work ability, to perceive their schools as an unhappy place to work, to assume a negative coping style, and to feel greater degrees of powerlessness and job burnout.

Self-efficacy can mediate the effect of pressure on job burnout. This finding can be explained by the teacher occupational stress model of Kyriacou and Sut’cliff. This model argues that the possible sources of stress may become actual stressors through personal cognitive assessment—thereby enabling teachers to form responses to their pressures. Moreover, the long-term effects of stress will lead to the development of chronic stress symptoms and eventually lead to job burnout (Kyriacou and Sutcliffe 1979). As a cognitive motivation mechanism, self-efficacy represents the faith of teachers toward their teaching ability. This factor directly affects how teachers choose their teaching activities, how they attribute their success or failure to teach, and how they regulate their moods. Therefore, the pressure mostly affects job burnout through the intermediary of self-efficacy (Zhao et al. 2014). Struggling to cope with a considerable amount of pressure may affect the self-evaluation of individuals, which will eventually make them feel tired of working. Therefore, teachers with low self-efficacy tend to adopt evasive tactics when facing setbacks, attribute their teaching success or failure to the influence of external environmental factors, and neglect the factors of their inner ability and effort. Moreover, teachers feel a greater degree of anxiety and fear because of the poor discipline of their students, frequently exhibit an open dislike toward teaching, and disgust their students. These teachers begin to show symptoms of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization. Thus, the mediating role of self-efficacy in the effects of pressure on job burnout is evident.1


  1. 1.

    Finally, thanks are due to for funding by the Education Department in Anhui China. (foundation NO.: 2012jyxm395 & NO.: 2013SQRW094ZD).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationAnyang Normal UniversityAnyangChina
  2. 2.School of Economics and ManagementWeinan Normal UniversityWeinanChina
  3. 3.School of Public AffairsUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefeiChina
  4. 4.School of Foreign LanguageAnhui JianZhu UniversityHefeiChina
  5. 5.School of Medical PsychologyFourth Military Medical UniversityXi’anChina

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