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Posted at 3:00 PM ET, 01/19/2010

Research on school burnout

By Valerie Strauss

My guest blogger today is Debra Viadero, who reports on education research for Education Week and writes a daily blog called Inside School Research.

By Debra Viadero
Some new research from the Academy of Finland suggests that teenagers who are burned out on school tend to have parents who suffer from work burnout.

According to the Science Daily blog, which reports on this first-ever study today, the Finnish researchers define school burnout as “a chronic, school-related stress syndrome that is manifested in fatigue, experiences of cynicism about school, and a sense of inadequacy as a student.”

For the study, the researchers surveyed 515 15-year-old students in that country and 595 of their parents. They found that burnout tends to run in families, and particularly between parents and students of the same gender, such as mothers and daughters or fathers and sons.

Katarina Salmela-Aro, the project’s lead researcher, told Science Daily that part of the problem may be that parents’ burnout manifests itself in a negative style of parenting or reduced engagement in teenagers’ lives.

Not surprisingly, the study also found, familial burnout tends to be linked to family financial problems, which can be pretty depressing all by themselves. The greater the family’s financial worries, the researchers said, the higher the level of burnout.

That’s particularly troubling, given the scope of the current economic recession. It also makes me question exactly what it is the researchers are talking about---simple depression or some sort of school-specific syndrome?

The bigger question, though, may be whether these findings predict an epidemic of burnout among teenagers around the world. And, if so, is there anything schools can do about it? The researchers don’t tell us.


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By Valerie Strauss  | January 19, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Tags:  debra viadero, school burnout  
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For over fifty years, almost all educational research has pointed to the critical influence of the family. This doesn't mean it's impossible to teach the child who does not have positive family support. What it does mean is that we must acknowlege the huge influence of the family and do something about it. Other countries have successfully tackled social problems and we can too.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 19, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

so a child that fell behind in reading 2nd or 3rd grade, is passed year falling further behind, and now reading 3 or more grade levels in HS, is the parents fault?

Interesting. Seems that parents within upper middle or middle class famalies needing to obtain a degree in education to assure our children were receiving a decent education.

Valerie, great column, but unsure of parents being burned out but more concerend about our kids futures.

We lose sleep because we worry. We work hard to provide.

It's called parenting.

Posted by: PGCResident1 | January 19, 2010 11:31 PM | Report abuse

And don't forget teacher burn-out, which I admit I thought this story would be about.

Also, don't forget administrator burn out. Many leave teaching thinking administration will be better and then find a whole new set of frustrations.

Let's see - who's not likely to be burnt out in the education field? Maybe the people in charge of the many factors that burn people out.

Valerie – have you read “Drive” yet, by Dan Pink? It’s on the NYT best seller list. It’s about decades of academic research on what truly motivates people that has been largely ignored. It’s definitely being ignored by our Secretary of Education in his Race to the Top.

Here are some recent interviews with the author:

And here’s a Harvard business school research working paper on the same subject:

Posted by: efavorite | January 20, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

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