First Advisor

Nancy Koroloff

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work and Social Research


Social Work and Social Research




Child welfare -- Oregon -- Portland, Betrothal -- Oregon -- Portland, Job descriptions -- Oregon -- Portland, Burn out (Psychology) -- Oregon -- Portland, Job analysis



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, viii, 183 pages)


Social worker stress and burnout are pervasive problems that harm workers, organizations, and clients. Past research has identified burnout, a psychological response to work stress, as an important predictor of intent to leave and ultimate turnover. An emerging body of research has examined work engagement, considered to be the opposite of burnout, as a predictor of retention. The problem of burnout and turnover within organizations employing social workers has been addressed in the literature for many years. This dissertation responded to a call in the literature for a greater emphasis on burnout prevention and enhancement of workforce engagement and retention. The three goals of the study were: (1) to measure levels of work engagement; (2) to examine the psychometric properties of two new instruments that measure burnout and engagement; and (3) to use the Job Demands-Resources model to test a hypothesized model of the unique relationships between job demands, resources, burnout, engagement and intent to leave.

Survey data were collected from 243 public child welfare workers employed with Oregon's Department of Human Services, Children, Adult and Families Division, Service Delivery Area 2 serving Multnomah County. Findings revealed that half of the workers were highly engaged and that engagement explained 18% of the variance of intent to remain employed. An alternative measure of burnout, the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory, demonstrated good internal consistency, convergent validity with the MBI, and explained 26% of the variance of intent to leave. A series of path analyses indicated support for a partially-mediated model. The findings demonstrate that burnout and engagement mediate the effects that demands and resources have on intent to leave. Supervisor support exerted both direct and indirect effects on intent to leave.

The results support the inclusion of work engagement in burnout research, demonstrate the psychometric soundness of two new instruments to measure engagement and burnout, and support the applicability of the Job Demands Resources Model to a sample of social service workers employed in public child welfare. The findings indicate that job demands and resources play an important role in worker intent to leave. Research, education, policy, and practice implications are addressed.


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