Emotion and stress-related illness among secondary teachers

Carlyle, Denise E. E. (2001). Emotion and stress-related illness among secondary teachers. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e339


Over the last decade there have been sharp increases in recorded levels of occupational stress. Reports of the growing incidence of stress-related illness within the teaching profession continue, the numbers of teachers pursuing litigation to secure compensation for injury to health increasing. Based on qualitative empirical data gathered from indepth longitudinal interviews guided by humanist counselling frameworks, this study focuses on the phenomenological experiences of 21 secondary school teachers (and their tmilies) diagnosed as suffering stress-related illness. It shows how stress cascaded through school systems from government directives to the chalkface, and on into family systems, leading, in some cases, to finally burnout. Analysis through the sociology and psychology of emotion emphasises the central position of emotions in the aetiology of stress-related illness. This research shows that emotions are social processes, playing a vital role as communicators both to the self and to others. Emotional climates within schools and the home, individual and organisational emotional competencies, emotional labouring, emotion management and emotion rules were key themes contributing to the experience of stress-related illness. This study finally deals with the struggle for survival and identity reconstruction processes within the self-renewal journey. Some teachers, profoundly damaged by the experience of stress, were unable to return to the teaching world. Some emerged with a renewed and strengthened sense of self. Implications are drawn regarding student achievement, individual and collective emotional literacy, and the retention, training and professional development of teachers.

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