Exposure to challenging behaviours and burnout symptoms among care staff: the role of psychological resources

M. Klaver*, B. J. van den Hoofdakker, H. Wouters, G. de Kuijper, P. J. Hoekstra, A. de Bildt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background Staff supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities are at risk of burnout symptoms. Evidence suggests an association between exposure to challenging behaviours of individuals with intellectual disabilities and burnout symptoms of staff, but the protective role of staff psychological resources in this relation has been understudied.

Method We investigated the association between exposure to challenging behaviours and burnout symptoms of staff and the direct and moderating effects of several psychological resources. Staff (N = 1271) completed an online survey concerning burnout symptoms (subscale Emotional Exhaustion of the Maslach Burnout Inventory), exposure to challenging behaviours and a range of potential psychological resources. We examined main and moderating effects with multilevel analyses. In order to control for the multiple comparisons, P values corrected for false discovery rate (P-FDR) were reported.

Results We found a direct relation between exposure to challenging behaviours and increased levels of burnout symptoms in staff (b = .15, t(670) = 4.466, P-FDR <.0001). Perceived supervisor social support (b = -.97, t(627) = -7.562, P-FDR <.0001), staff self-efficacy (b = -.23, t(673) = -3.583, P-FDR <.0001), resilience (b = -.19, t(668) = -2.086, P-FDR <.05) and extraversion (b = -.20, t(674) = -3.514, P-FDR <.05) were associated with reduced burnout symptoms. None of the proposed psychological resources moderated the association between exposure to challenging behaviours and burnout symptoms of staff.

Conclusions Of the psychological resources found to be associated with reduced risk of burnout symptoms, staff self-efficacy and access of staff to supervisor social support seem to be the factors that can be influenced best. These factors thus may be of importance in reducing the risk of developing burnout symptoms and improving staff well-being, even though the current study was not designed to demonstrate causal relations between psychological resources and burnout symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Intellectual Disability Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb-2021


  • burnout
  • care staff
  • challenging behaviours
  • intellectual disabilities
  • psychological resources

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