Coping strategies and burnout among veteran child protection workers

Child Abuse Negl. 2000 Jun;24(6):839-48. doi: 10.1016/s0145-2134(00)00143-5.


Objectives: First, to learn how veteran (2 years or more) child protective service (CPS) investigations workers cope with job stress; and secondly, to examine the relationship between coping strategies and levels of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and sense of reduced personal accomplishment (burnout syndrome).

Method: Cross-sectional, self-report methodology was used to measure coping strategies and the burnout syndrome. The voluntary subjects were 151 front-line CPS workers with at least 2 years experience in a southeastern Department of Social Services. They attended one of nine stress management workshops provided in various locations around the state. Quantitative analyses were run on the data.

Results: These workers perceived themselves to use Engaged (active) coping strategies more than Disengaged (avoidant) strategies. Sixty-two percent of participants scored in the high range on Emotional Exhaustion, the aspect some researchers consider to be the heart of Burnout. Those who used Engaged coping were less likely to feel depersonalized and more likely to feel a sense of personal accomplishment. Those who used Disengaged coping were more likely to feel emotionally exhausted, depersonalized, and to have a sense of reduced personal accomplishment.

Conclusion: Neither the use of active nor avoidant coping strategies saved these workers from Emotional Exhaustion. The problem-focused strategies they are taught and use most do not help deal with the emotional content and context of their work, suggesting the use of emotion-focused coping to prevent and remediate burnout.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Burnout, Professional*
  • Child
  • Child Welfare*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Work*