An analysis of the stress, strain and coping levels of public school teachers of seriously emotionally disturbed students

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The purpose of this study was to assess the stress, strain and coping levels of public school teachers of seriously emotionally disturbed students. A secondary purpose was to determine if relationships existed between dependent variables stress, strain and coping and teacher experience and teaching assignment variables. The sample consisted of five hundred teachers of seriously emotionally disturbed students in the southeast region of the United States. The usable return rate was 62% with N = 295.

Respondents completed a demographic information survey which provided data for variables sex, year of birth, highest degree earned, degree area, experience in education, community size and present special education teaching setting. The Occupational Environment Scales, Personal Strain Questionnaire and Personal Resources Questionnaire developed by Samuel Osipow and Arnold Spokane (1981) were used to collect data on stress, strain and coping levels. Frequencies, means, standard deviations, medians and modes were computed for all variables. Pearson correlations and t-tests were calculated for teacher experience variables and stress, strain and coping. Chi-square and ANOVA procedures were completed for teacher assignment variables and the dependent variables.

The major finding of the study was that the majority of public school teachers of the seriously emotionally disturbed had low to average stress and strain levels, and above average coping skills. The sample of teachers of seriously emotionally disturbed students who participated in this study do not appear to be as stressed and strained as samples reviewed in other recent studies. This may be due to the nature of the sample.

Older teachers were found slightly less stressed, less strained and possessing slightly higher coping skill levels than younger teachers. There were no significant relationships found between teaching experience variables and dependent variables of stress, strain and coping.

No significant relationship between stress and teaching assignment variables, community size and teaching setting resulted. A relationship was found between strain levels and community size and teaching setting. There was evidence of a relationship between coping skills and community size (urban, suburban, rural), but no relationship was found between coping skill levels and special education teaching setting (resource, self-contained, center, center with therapy).