Extraversion, neuroticism and coping as variables in the stress and burnout process : a pilot study using a population of child care workers.
Personality, ways of coping and occupational burnout were examined within the context of child care work, using a number of self-report questionnaires. Subjects included 70 full-time child care workers from children's homes in the Natal-KwaZulu area. The subject sample was treated as one group, as environmental sources of stress were perceived more or less consistently across the population. Stepwise multiple regression was used to assess the relationships between personality (neuroticism, extraversion) and ways of coping and the three facets of burnout (emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and personal accomplishment). Demographic variables such as age and experience were also explored. Varying degrees of burnout were found, with particularly high levels of diminished personal accomplishment. Both emotion- and problem-focused coping strategies contributed significantly to the burnout response, with emotion-focused coping being the most frequently reported coping strategy. Significant relationships were found between personality and burnout. Neuroticism contributed a significant proportion of the variance in all three dimensions of burnout, particularly emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation. Extraversion and psychoticism contributed significantly to higher levels of personal accomplishment. A significant relationship was found between personality and ways of coping. Neuroticism contributed significantly to the prediction of emotion-focused coping strategies, particularly wishful thinking and self-blame. Extraversion was found to contribute significantly to problem-focused coping and growth-oriented coping. Demographic variables, particularly age and experience, were found to influence both burnout and coping responses. Ethnic identity was found to influence the coping strategies used. The results were discussed primarily in terms of their function as defenses, or as efforts to adapt (successfully or unsuccessfully) to the stress being experienced, and as vulnerability factors. The importance of contextual factors in the stress and burnout process, particularly within the current South African context, was highlighted. Recommendations for future research were made.