Teachers may be employed outside of the structures of the general education system, that is, as part of youth fostering centres (Młodzieżowe Ośrodki Wychowawcze, MOW) and youth sociotherapy centres (Młodzieżowe Ośrodki Socjoterapii, MOS). These centres offer care, therapy, and education to children and adolescents who are socially maladjusted (MOWs) or at risk for social maladjustment (MOSs) (Ministerstwo Edukacji Narodowej, 2015). Signs and symptoms of social maladjustment include behaviours which violate commonly accepted social norms, including destructive and aggressive behaviours, oppositional behaviours, and impulsivity (Grzegorzewska, 1960; Pytka & Zacharuk, 1998). There are relatively few MOWs and MOSs in Poland compared to the general educational facilities, and, in practice, they are not an object of analysis or discussion in the psychological community. These centres serve an important role by providing opportunities for better social adjustment and preparation for responsible adult life.

Teachers working in MOWs and MOSs face numerous occupational challenges which may generate stress due to the discrepancies between the occupational demands and the teachers’ real competences and needs. The teaching staff of such facilities rate their work as stressful and unsatisfying, and they additionally report a strong sense of their work having no effects (Granosik et al., 2014; Śliwa, 2013).

It is reported that the number of problems faced by students may cause occupational burnout among teachers in the face of a lack of effects of student-teacher cooperation (Adeniyi et al., 2010; Foley & Murphy, 2015; Maslach & Leiter, 1997; Sproles, 2018). Occupational burnout comprises symptoms of emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment (Boles et al., 2000; Schaufeli et al., 2009). They negatively impact employee motivation and thus generate losses for the organization (Maslach & Leiter, 1997; Piotrowski, 2010).

Pedagogical studies have shown that MOW/MOS employees do not differ from public school employees in terms of burnout levels, or that they develop the full symptomatology of occupational burnout (Karłyk-Ćwik, 2012; Pyżalski, 2002). Studies from countries other than Poland show that teachers from outside the general educational system are at a higher risk of occupational burnout due to different workplace conditions, including different occupational challenges (Brunsting et al., 2014; Pearson et al., 2015). Higher employee turnover rates are noted in this population (Fore et al., 2002).

Thus far, it has been established that both organisational factors and personal determinants influence burnout dimensions among teachers (De Stasio et al., 2017; Foley & Murphy, 2015; Mojsa-Kaja et al., 2015; Santoro, 2018). Among teachers, sense of self-efficacy is positively correlated with engagement and job satisfaction, and negatively with subjectively experienced stress and occupational burnout (Klassen & Chiu, 2010; Love et al., 2020; Szabó & Jagodics, 2012). As the number of children with special education needs and behavioural problems increases, so do the levels of teachers’ depersonalization and exhaustion (Fejgin et al., 2005; Talmor et al., 2007). Analyses of various occupational groups also showed that optimism is not an unequivocal factor in shaping occupational burnout intensity (Chang et al., 2000; Hayes & Weathington, 2007; Malagón-Aguilera et al., 2020). Thus, it seems warranted to explore this subject in psychological research and analyse the characteristics of MOW/MOS teachers.


The aim of the study was to gather data on occupational burnout and its correlates and predictors in a sample of MOW/MOS teachers, as well as public school teachers. The following research questions were put forward:

What is the participants’ level of occupational burnout?

What results do they exhibit in terms of the four aspects of occupational burnout: psychophysical exhaustion, deterioration of relationships with clients, a sense of professional inefficiency, and disillusion, and life optimism and a sense of self-efficacy?

What is the correlation between life optimism, sense of self-efficacy, and occupational burnout depending on the workplace (public schools, MOWs and MOSs), job experience, and teacher gender?

Which of the studied variables are predictors of the four aspects of burnout: psychophysical exhaustion, deterioration of relationships with clients, a sense of professional inefficiency, and disillusion?

The following hypotheses were postulated due to previous findings:

  1. low level of optimism and low level of self-efficacy among teachers; high level of burnout;

  2. differences between group of teachers (public schools, MOWs and MOSs) in their optimism, self-efficacy and job burnout;

  3. significant negative association of optimism, self-efficacy and workplace with aspects of burnout;

  4. optimism, self-efficacy as well as job experience and workplace will be significant predictors of burnout.



The first group comprised teachers employed in MOWs and MOSs in the Kujawsko-Pomorskie and Pomorskie voivodeships in Poland (Group 1; MOW/ MOS teachers). The second group comprised teachers from public primary and high schools (Group 2) in this area. The choice of the education level represented by the control group was motivated by the fact that it reflects the age of the MOW/MOS students/pupils. Data collection lasted for three months.

One hundred and sixty-nine people took part in the study, including 89 MOW/MOS teachers (Group 1) and 80 public school teachers (Group 2). Group 1 comprised: 20 men and 69 women, 68 people with less than 20 years of job experience, and 21 people with 20 years of job experience or more. Group 2 comprised: 33 people with less than 20 years of job experience, 47 people with 20 years of job experience or more, 15 men and 65 women.


Participation in the study was voluntary and anonymous. All the surveys were distributed in the school institutions by the author. Informed consent was obtained from the centres’ management prior to the distribution of the surveys. Questionnaires were placed in teachers’ room. They were supplemented with a description of the study and its aims. Participants completed the questionnaires and returned them in a sealed envelope to a specially prepared box.

The research conforms to the ethical norms and standards in the Declaration of Helsinki.


The following measures were used in the study:

The Generalized Self-Efficacy Scale (GSES) designed by Schwarzer and Jerusalem (1995), in Polish adaptation by Juczyński (2012). This questionnaire contains 10 items measuring the strength of the participant’s general belief about their efficacy in coping with experienced difficulties and obstacles (e.g. “I can always manage to solve difficult problems if I try hard enough” or “If I am in trouble, I can usually think of a solution”). The participants give their responses to the items on a four-point scale (Juczyński, 2012). The sum of the item scores indicates the general level of self-efficacy. Transforming the total score into sten scores allows inferences to be drawn about the participants’ sense of self-efficacy. In this study, the Cronbach’s α coefficient for the scale was .85.

Life Orientation Test Revised (LOT-R) designed by Scheier et al. (1994), adapted into Polish by Poprawa and Juczyński (Juczyński, 2012). The test contains 10 items, six of which measure dispositional optimism (e.g. “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best”; “Overall, I expect more good things to happen to me than bad”). The total score ranges from 0 to 24 points. The norms of the LOT-R are given in stens. The internal consistency of the LOT-R was Cronbach’s α .84.

Link Burnout Questionnaire (LBQ). The original Italian version of the LBQ by Santinello (2008) was adapted into Polish by Jaworowska (2014). This questionnaire measures four aspects of occupational burnout. The first is psychophysical exhaustion (relates to the evaluation of one’s own psychophysical resources, e.g. “I feel physically drained because of my work”). The second aspect denotes relationship deterioration – the lack of engagement, indifference, and withdrawal in relationships with clients (e.g. “I have the feeling that most of my patients do not follow my instructions”). The third dimension describes own professional competences and is labelled as professional inefficacy (e.g. “I feel that my skills are not sufficiently adequate to deal with unexpected circumstances”). The last dimension is disillusion (this dimension refers to existential expectations, e.g. “I think that if I could do it all over again, I’d choose another job”). The questionnaire comprises 24 items describing the participant’s feelings towards their job. Answers are given on a six-point scale (from never to every day). The scores are given in stens (Jaworowska, 2014). In this study, the Cronbach’s α coefficient for the scales was .89 (for psychophysical deterioration), .85 (disillusion), .84 (for relationship deterioration) and .78 (for professional inefficacy).

The current study also included a short demographic questionnaire which collected data about the participants’ gender, workplace, and job experience.


Statistical analyses were carried out using the software IBM SPSS Statistics 25.0. The software was used to calculate basic descriptive statistics, together with the normality test. Next, using Student’s t test or Mann-Whitney’s U test, results of public school teachers and MOW/MOS teachers were compared. Multiple linear regression was also used to examine which of the analysed variables were significant predictors of occupational burnout among teachers. For the purpose of the analysis, α = .05 was taken as the statistical significance level.


In the first step, an analysis of the basic descriptive statistics was carried out (see Table 1).

Table 1

Basic descriptive statistics and the normality test (N = 169)

Psychophysical exhaustion19.9320.005.870.10-0.407.0035.00
Relationship deterioration14.4614.003.690.751.438.0028.00
Professional inefficacy15.0114.004.690.43–0.406.0027.00

General results on the sten scale indicate the possibility of some problems related to occupational burnout in each of the examined aspects: psychophysical exhaustion (7th sten), relationship deterioration (6th sten), professional inefficacy, and disillusion (6th sten).


The analysis indicated statistically significant group differences in terms of psychophysical exhaustion and professional inefficacy. MOW/MOS teachers reported higher scores on both of these dimensions of occupational burnout (see Table 2). The effect size was large. The two teacher groups did not differ significantly in the sense of self-efficacy, life optimism, relationship deterioration, or disillusion.

Table 2

Comparison of public school teachers’ and MOW/MOS teachers’ sense of self-efficacy, life optimism, and occupational burnout

Public school (n = 80)MOW and MOS (n = 89)tp95% CId
Psychophysical exhaustion16.986.0222.604.27–6.93< .001–7.22–4.021.09
Relationship deterioration13.894.5514.972.60–1.86.065–
Professional inefficacy13.214.4116.624.35–5.05< .001–4.74–2.070.78

[i] Note. t – Student’s t-test; LL – lower limits; UL – upper limits; CI – confidence interval; d – Cohen’s d effect size.

The results on psychophysical exhaustion and professional inefficacy among public school teachers reached the 6th sten, while relationship deterioration was on the level of the 5th sten. MOW/MOS teachers reported the highest level – 8th sten – of psychophysical exhaustion, relationship deterioration between the 5th and 6th sten, and professional inefficacy at the 7th sten. In both groups, disillusion was at the 6th sten. The results of both groups indicate high levels of self-efficacy and moderate optimism.


Statistically significant gender differences occurred for relationship deterioration. Relationship deterioration scores were higher for women than for men (see Table 3). The effect size was small. The differences in the sense of self-efficacy, life optimism, and the remaining dimensions of occupational burnout were not statistically significant.

Table 3

Comparison of public school teachers’ and MOW/MOS teachers’ sense of self-efficacy, life optimism, and occupational burnout

Women (n = 134)Men (n = 35)zpR
Mean rangeMeIQRMean rangeMeIQR
Psychophysical exhaustion87.6920.008.0074.6920.0010.0010.00.1600.11
Relationship deterioration88.8714.005.0070.2013.
Professional inefficacy84.8514.006.0085.5715.

[i] Note. IQR – interquartile range; R – ranks; z – the Mann-Whitney U test.


Analogous analyses were carried out for teachers above and below 20 years of job experience (see Table 4). Teachers with over 20 years of job experience reported higher levels of self-efficacy, lower levels of psychophysical exhaustion, and lower levels of professional inefficacy compared to teachers with less than 20 years of job experience. The effect size for these differences ranged from small to moderate. The groups did not differ significantly with respect to life optimism and disillusion.

Table 4

Comparison of teachers with more and less than 20 years of job experience with respect to self-efficacy, life optimism, and occupational burnout

Less than 20 years
(n = 101)
More than 20 years
(n = 68)
Mean rangeMeIQRMean rangeMeIQR
Psychophysical exhaustion97.2921.007.0066.7518.008.75–3.99< .0010.31
Relationship deterioration87.2514.005.0081.6614.005.75–0.73.4650.06
Professional inefficiency95.4016.007.0069.5513.006.50–3.38.0010.26

[i] Note. IQR – interquartile range; R – ranks; z – the Mann-Whitney U test.


In the next step of the analyses, several multiple linear regressions using the enter method were carried out in order to explain occupational burnout among teachers. The following variables were entered as predictors into the models: job experience, occupation (public school vs. MOW/MOS), life optimism, and sense of self-efficacy. The first analysed model explained psychophysical exhaustion as a dimension of occupational burnout. The model explained 38% of the variance in occupational burnout and showed a good fit to the data. Significant predictors of psychophysical exhaustion were: occupation and the sense of self-efficacy (see Table 5). Psychophysical exhaustion among MOW/MOS teachers was higher by 5.25 units compared to public school teachers. As results on the GSES increased by 1 SD, psychophysical exhaustion decreased by .28 SD.

Table 5

Linear regression coefficients for the model explaining psychophysical exhaustion

BSEβtp95% CI for B
(Constant)30.573.179.66< .00124.3236.82
Job experience–1.470.79–.12–1.85.067–3.040.10
Workplace5.250.77.456.82< .0013.736.77
Self-efficacy–0.390.10–.28–3.81< .001–0.59–0.19
F(5, 162) = 21.39, p < .001
Adjusted R2 = .38

[i] Note. SE – standard error; β – standardized beta; B – unstandardized regression B coefficient; LL – lower limits; UL – upper limits.

The next model explained relationship deterioration. The analysis showed that significant predictors of relationship deterioration were: occupation and sense of self-efficacy (see Table 6). Relationship deterioration scores were higher among MOW/MOS teachers by 1.69 units compared to public school teachers. As results on the GSES increased by 1 SD, relationship deterioration decreased by .18 SD.

Table 6

Linear regression coefficients for the model explaining relationship deterioration

BSEβtp95% CI for B
(Constant)17.492.267.75< .00113.0321.94
Job experience0.370.–0.691.43
F(5, 159) = 4.48, p = .001
Adjusted R2 = .10

[i] Note. SE – standard error; β – standardized beta; B – unstandardized regression B coefficient; LL – lower limits; UL – upper limits.

In the next step, a regression analysis explaining professional inefficacy was carried out. The analysis showed that significant predictors of professional in-efficacy were occupation and the sense of self-efficacy (see Table 7). Professional inefficacy was higher among MOW/MOS teachers by 2.95 units compared to public school teachers. As GSES scores increased by 1 SD, professional inefficacy decreased by .26 SD.

Table 7

Linear regression coefficients for the model explaining professional inefficacy

BSEβtp95% CI for B
(Constant)20.462.877.12< .00114.7926.14
Job experience–1.070.72–.11–1.48.142–2.490.36
Workplace2.950.70.324.23< .0011.584.33
F(5, 162) = 8.87, p < .001
Adjusted R2 = .19

[i] Note. SE – standard error; β – standardized beta; B – unstandardized regression B coefficient; LL – lower limits; UL – upper limits.

The last model explained disillusion as a dimension of occupational burnout. The analysis showed that the sense of self-efficacy was a significant predictor (see Table 8). As GSES scores increased by 1 SD, disillusion decreased by .35 SD.

Table 8

Linear regression coefficients for the model explaining disillusion

BSEβtp95% CI for B
(Constant)34.593.699.37< .00127.3041.88
Job experience–0.640.93–.05–0.70.488–2.481.19
Self-efficacy–0.490.12–.35–4.12< .001–0.72–0.25
F(5, 162) = 6.38, p < .001
Adjusted R2 = .14

[i] Note. SE – standard error; β – standardized beta; B – unstandardized regression B coefficient; LL – lower limits; UL – upper limits.


The results indicate differences in occupational burnout incidence between the compared groups of teachers. MOW/MOS teachers reported significantly higher psychophysical exhaustion and professional inefficacy scores. According to the construction of the LBQ, the psychophysical exhaustion dimension describes feelings of tiredness, tension, and pressure. This description aligns with the fourth stage of burn-out in Litzke’s (2007) concept, which centres around the imbalance between internal needs and external demands, resulting in significant energy losses and, finally, burnout. Teachers’ lack of fit to the classroom reality has previously been discussed in the literature (Brunsting et al., 2014). This lack of fit is also an effect of the perceived discrepancy between the teacher’s personal capabilities and the students’ needs. Longitudinal studies show that teachers’ perceptions of good fit in the teacher-student relationship allow for predicting lower levels of professional cynicism after five years (Brunsting et al., 2014). Numerous studies show that students with special educational needs require more time and more frequent changes in teaching strategies on the part of the teachers (Lee & Witruk, 2016; Minarik et al., 2003). Children displaying aggressive behaviours are often themselves victims of such behaviours from their environment. This facilitates the development of social maladjustment or demoralisation (Pastwa-Wojciechowska, 2015). A higher declared intensity of symptoms among people working with socially maladjusted adolescents seems to be consistent with the results showing that the more teachers experience distress, the lower are their engagement and job satisfaction (Buonomo et al., 2017).

Study results indicate that teachers at greater risk of experiencing aggression are also at a greater risk of occupational burnout and more frequent anxiety and guilt (Galand et al., 2007; Rojas-Flores et al., 2015). To underscore the importance of analyses on this point, it is worth mentioning that the consequences of occupational stress and occupational burnout among teachers influence their teaching quality as well as student engagement (Wong et al., 2017). It seems understandable that educational success can be determined by teachers’ personal traits such as psychological resilience or emotional self-control.

Legal regulations account for the specificity of the youth fostering centre teachers’ work and the possibility of earlier retirement. In Poland, teachers are entitled to earlier retirement after 20 years of work in youth fostering centres, in contrast to 30 years of work in public schools. Simultaneously, the current analyses showed that teachers with more than 20 years of job experience reported lower levels of individual occupational burnout aspects, as well as higher levels of the sense of self-efficacy. Williams (2003) described this group as oriented towards community, support, and creative approaches to relationships with students. Studies on special education teachers also show that younger age more frequently predisposes towards experiences of severe stress, changing jobs, and a lack of job satisfaction due to stress and frustration (Miller et al., 1999; Stempien & Loeb, 2002).

The presented models explaining occupational burnout point to the significant role of two variables in predicting relationship deterioration, psychophysical exhaustion, and professional inefficacy: type of educational facility and the sense of self-efficacy. This result is in line with the results of a meta-analysis of 41 studies carried out between 1983 and 2018 (Park & Shin, 2020). It showed that the sense of self-efficacy plays a significant role among special education teachers. In the current study, the teacher groups differed with respect to the facilities they were employed in. As indicated in the literature, working in resocialization facilities (such as MOWs or MOSs) requires more effort expended in contacts with students (Kim & Burić, 2020; Mamlin, 2012). This has a particular shaping effect on the psychological costs of this work, including occupational burnout.

Surprisingly, the current study did not reveal a significant influence of life optimism. It is described in the literature as a determinant of low occupational stress and high job satisfaction among teachers, and it also impacts occupational burnout intensity among academic staff members (Barkhuizen et al., 2014; Krok & Telka, 2019; Opeyemi, 2016; Poormahmood et al., 2017). The LOT-R test employed in the current study is the most popular measure of dispositional optimism in research. However, the literature also points to the Gottschalk Hope Scale (Gottschalk, 1974) as an alternative which is resistant to faking answers (Terrill et al., 2002).


The current study has several limitations. Increasing the sample size would certainly allow MOW and MOS teachers to be more accurately represented. It seems important to analyse social support (its sources and availability), which has been shown to be related to occupational burnout in this group (Caputo & Langher, 2015). However, this variable was not included in the current study. Thus, it requires continuation in order to more thoroughly explore the mechanisms of occupational burnout among MOW/ MOS teachers. This is evidenced by the results of existing studies: teachers’ sense of self-efficacy influences student achievement and can be considered as a predictor of student behavioural problems together with the individual aspects of occupational burn-out (Caprara et al., 2006; McLean et al., 2019). When studying teachers, it is difficult not to include this predictive power.

Based on the analyses carried out as well as the available literature, it can be concluded that:

The intensity of occupational burnout symptoms is related to workplace type. Professional inefficacy and psychophysical exhaustion are significantly higher among MOW/MOS teachers.

The studies confirmed the predictive power of the sense of self-efficacy among teachers in the context of occupational burnout symptoms, which is consistent with the available literature.

Longer job experience is more frequently related to lower intensity of individual occupational burnout aspects and to higher sense of self-efficacy.

The current study requires continuation, as detailed scientific analyses of this occupational group are still lacking. There is a need to examine the role of social support among MOW/MOS teachers.