This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Psychophysiological Impact of Burnout in Special and General Education Teachers




Sacco, Matthew

Type of Degree



Counseling Psychology


Teaching is considered to be a stressful occupation. Many teachers experience ongoing stress from a variety of sources, which eventually leads to burnout, and ultimately is reflected in what has become an alarming rate of attrition. The present study examined the relationship between teachers’ experiences of stress, burnout, and salivary cortisol levels. A total of 163 general education and special education teachers completed self-report measures of teacher occupational stress (Teacher Stress Inventory), psychological distress (Symptom Check List-90-Revised), and burnout (Maslach Burnout Inventory-Educators Survey). A smaller subsample of teachers provided saliva samples that were analyzed for levels of free and unbound salivary cortisol. Results did not indicate a signficant relationship between salivary cortisol levels and subjective measures of burnout. Correlations with teacher occupational stress, and psychological distress interpreted with caution due to low power statistical power as a result of small sample N. Although cortisol levels are unrelated to self reported burnout in the general education sample, daily changes in cortisol levels are positively related to the personal accomplishment subscale of the burnout inventory for special education instructors. Results also indicate that both special and general education teachers reported statistically and clinically signficant levels of occupational stress and psychological distress above what is expected when compared to normative samples for each measure.