Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Barry S. Markman


The current research examined the dispositional characteristics that mediated burnout syndrome in a sample of direct care workers who were employed in group homes for the mentally ill in a Midwestern state. Specifically, the indirect effects that the direct care staff's attachment systems and problem solving ability were examined as they applied to their potential burnout status. Attachment theory, a contemporary psychodynamic theory of personality, was used to provide a context for the study. The researcher studied the interactions between construct subcomponents to address a criticism in the literature stating that only total scores were used to study burnout and problem solving.

One hundred and seventeen direct care workers filled out a short demographic survey, the Social Problem Solving Inventory - Revised Short Form (SPSI-R:S), the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Services Survey (MBI-HS), and the Experiences in Close Relations - Short Form (ECR-SF). The results of the study indicated that negative problem orientation significantly predicted emotional exhaustion. Rational problem solving was negatively related to depersonalization, negative problem orientation was positively associated with depersonalization. Rational problem solving was also positively associated with personal accomplishment, a resiliency factor against burnout. Anxious attachment partially mediated the relationship between negative problem orientation and depersonalization. Anxious attachment also partially mediated the relationship between Impulsivity/Carelessness problem solving style and depersonalization, and avoidance problem solving style and depersonalization. Attachment, as a dimension of personality was found to partially account for direct care workers' burnout statuses in a stressful work environment. Recommendations for further research included replicating the study using a larger sample and measuring direct staff's appraisals of stressful situations.