Exposure to aggressive behaviour and burnout in direct support providers: The role of positive work factors

Jennifer M. Hensel, Yona Lunsky, Carolyn S Dewa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Many direct support providers (DSPs) are exposed to aggressive behaviour in their work supporting adults with developmental disabilities service recipients. This is a work environment factor that has been linked to job burnout. The objective of this study was to examine the impact of positive work factors on emotional exhaustion (EE) among DSPs who are exposed to aggressive behaviour. Survey responses from 671 DSPs who were working in community service settings for adults with developmental disabilities, and were exposed to aggressive behaviour at least monthly were examined. Hierarchical linear regression examined the direct contribution and moderating role of positive work factors (self-efficacy for dealing with aggression and work contributions) on EE measured with the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Services Survey, after controlling for demographics, occupational variables, exposure to aggression and negative emotional reactions to aggression. Results showed that younger age, more experience, more depression/anger emotions in response to aggression, lower self-efficacy and low positive work contributions were significantly associated with EE. Positive work motivation was a moderator of exposure to aggression and EE. When work motivations were low, DSPs were more negatively affected by higher exposure to aggression. These findings suggest that in addition to addressing the negative emotional reactions to the aggressive behaviour encountered at work, it is also important to foster positive work factors which may be protective against EE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)404-412
Number of pages9
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Direct support providers
  • Emotional Exhaustion
  • Self-efficacy
  • Work Motivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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