Workplace Violence In Social Care Settings: Traumatic Stress And Burnout In Staff.

Daniel Dowling, Sonam Prakashini Banka


The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between frequency of exposure to physical violence/aggression and traumatic stress and burnout in social care workers (SCWs). One hundred SCWs were surveyed using non-experimental, cross-sectional, quantitative design with three questionnaires: Demographic questionnaire, revised Impact of Events Scale and Maslach Burnout Inventory. Responses were analysed using SPSS quantitative software and utilised descriptive statistics, non-parametric correlational and comparative statistical tests. Results indicated statistically significant positive relationships between the frequency of exposure to physical aggression/violence and traumatic stress and burnout measures. Results also indicated significant positive correlations between traumatic stress and burnout. Furthermore, exposure to workplace violence/aggression, traumatic stress, and burnout also positively correlated with SCWs desire to leave the profession in the next five years. Finally, results indicated the presence of a significant protective role of self-care in moderating the perceived effects of workplace violence/aggression on traumatic stress and burnout in SCWs.


Social Care Work; Workplace Violence; Traumatic Stress; Burnout


Alink, L. R., Euser, S., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., & van IJzendoorn, M. H. (2014, April). A challenging job: Physical and sexual violence towards group workers in youth residential care. In Child & Youth Care Forum (Vol. 43, No. 2, pp. 243-250). Springer US.

Asukai, N., Kato, H., Kawamura, N., Kim, Y., Yamamoto, K., Kishimoto, J., & Nishizono-Maher, A. (2002). Reliability and validity of the Japanese-language version of the impact of event scale-revised (IES-R-J): four studies of different traumatic events. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 190(3), 175- 182.

Balloch, S., Pahl, J., & McLean, J. (1998). Working in the social services: Job satisfaction, stress and violence. The British Journal of Social Work, 28(3), 329-350.

Beaver, H. W. (1999). Client violence against professional social workers: Frequency, worker characteristics, and impact on worker job satisfaction, burnout, and health (Doctoral dissertation, ProQuest Information & Learning).

Beck, J. G., Grant, D. M., Read, J. P., Clapp, J. D., Coffey, S. F., Miller, L. M., & Palyo, S. A. (2008). The Impact of Event Scale-Revised: Psychometric properties in a sample of motor vehicle accident survivors. Journal of anxiety disorders, 22(2), 187-198.

Brodie, I. (2005). Education and residential child care in England: A research perspective. Facing forward: Residential care in the 21st century, 163-171.

Clarke, S., & Cooper, C. (2004). Managing the risk of workplace stress: Health and safety hazards. Routledge.

Clough, R., Bullock, R., & Ward, A. (2006). What Works in Residential Child Care: A review of research evidence and the practical considerations. London: National Children's Bureau.

Collins, S., & Long, A. (2003). Working with the psychological effects of trauma: consequences for mental health‐care workers–a literature review. Journal of psychiatric and mental health nursing, 10(4), 417-424.

Colton, M., & Roberts, S. (2006). The retention of residential group care workers. International Journal of Child and Family Welfare, 9(3), 160.

Colton, M., & Roberts, S. (2007). Factors that contribute to high turnover among residential child care staff. Child & Family Social Work, 12(2), 133-142.

Creamer, M., Bell, R., & Failla, S. (2003). Psychometric properties of the impact of event scale—revised. Behaviour research and therapy, 41(12), 1489-1496.

D'Souza, F., Egan, S. J., & Rees, C. S. (2011). The relationship between perfectionism, stress and burnout in clinical psychologists. Behaviour Change, 28(1), 17-28.

Emerson, E., & Hatton, C. (2000). Violence against social care workers supporting people with learning difficulties: a review. University of Lancaster.

Figley C.R. (1995). Compassion fatigue as secondary traumatic stress disorder: an overview. In: Compassion Fatigue: Coping with Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder in Those Who Treat the Traumatized (ed Figley, C.R.), pp. 1–20. Brunnar/Mazel, New York.

Franz, S., Zeh, A., Schablon, A., Kuhnert, S., & Nienhaus, A. (2010). Aggression and violence against health care workers in Germany-a cross sectional retrospective survey. BMC health services research, 10(1), 51.

Freudenberger, H. J. (1975). The staff burn-out syndrome in alternative institutions. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 12(1), 73.

Galián-Muñoz, I., Ruiz-Hernández, J. A., Llor-Esteban, B., & López-García, C. (2016). User violence and nursing staff burnout: The modulating role of job satisfaction. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 31(2), 302-315.

Harris, B., & Leather, P. (2011). Levels and consequences of exposure to service user violence: Evidence from a sample of UK social care staff. British Journal of Social Work, 42(5), 851-869.

Hastings, R. P., & Brown, T. (2002). Behavior problems of children with autism, parental self-efficacy, and mental health. American journal on mental retardation,107(3), 222-232.

Health & Safety Authority (2014, November). Managing the Risk of Work-related Violence and Aggression in Healthcare: Information Sheet. Health and Safety Authority. Information_Sheets/Violence_in_Healthcare_Information_Sheet.pdf

Healy, K., Meagher, G., & Cullin, J. (2007). Retaining novices to become expert child protection practitioners: Creating career pathways in direct practice. British Journal of Social Work, 39(2), 299-317.

Hensel, J. M., Lunsky, Y., & Dewa, C. S. (2012). Exposure to client aggression and burnout among community staff who support adults with intellectual disabilities in Ontario, Canada. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 56(9), 910-915.

Honkonen, T., Ahola, K., Pertovaara, M., Isometsä, E., Kalimo, R., Nykyri, E., ... & Lönnqvist, J. (2006). The association between burnout and physical illness in the general population—results from the Finnish Health 2000 Study. Journal of psychosomatic research, 61(1), 59-66.

Howard, N. (2014). The Irish association of social care workers. Social care: Learning from practice, 12-23.

Isaksson, U., Graneheim, U. H., Richter, J., Eisemann, M., & Åström, S. (2008). Exposure to violence in relation to personality traits, coping abilities, and burnout among caregivers in nursing homes: a case–control study. Scandinavian journal of caring sciences, 22(4), 551-559.

Kawamura, N., Kim, Y., & Asukai, N. (2001). Suppression of cellular immunity in men with a past history of posttraumatic stress disorder. American Journal of psychiatry, 158(3), 484-486.

Keogh, P., & Byrne, C. (2016). Crisis, concern and complacency: A study on the extent, impact and management of workplace violence and assault on social care workers. Social Care Ireland.

Keogh, P., Fitzpatrick, A., Hopkins, G., Greene, S., Andrews, N., Ryan, R., & Bailey, P. (2001). The Nature and Extent of Workplace Violence Experienced by Social Care Workers: An Irish Report. Irish Association of Care Workers.

Kop, N., Euwema, M., & Schaufeli, W. (1999). Burnout, job stress and violent behaviour among Dutch police officers. Work & Stress, 13(4), 326-340.

Kumar, S. (2007). Burnout in psychiatrists. World Psychiatry, 6(3), 186.

Lalor, K. & Share, P. (2013). Understanding social care. Applied social care: An introduction for students in Ireland (3rd edition, pp. 3-18). Dublin: Gill and Macmillan.

Littlechild, B. (2000). I know where you live’: How child protection social workers are affected by threats and aggression. A study into the stresses faced by child protection workers in Hertfordshire. Department of Health and Social Care. Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire.

Lloyd, C., King, R., & Chenoweth, L. (2002). Social work, stress and burnout: A review. Journal of mental health, 11(3), 255-265.

Lovell, A., & Skellern, J. (2013). ‘Tolerating violence’: a qualitative study into the experience of professionals working within one UK learning disability service. Journal of clinical nursing, 22(15-16), 2264-2272.

Lundström, M., Åström, S., & Graneheim, U. H. (2007). Caregivers' experiences of exposure to violence in services for people with learning disabilities. Journal of psychiatric and mental health nursing, 14(4), 338-345.

Mansell, J., & Beadle‐Brown, J. (2004). Person‐centred planning or person‐centred action? Policy and practice in intellectual disability services. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 17(1), 1-9.

Maslach, C., Jackson, S. E., Leiter, M. P., Schaufeli, W. B., & Schwab, R. L. (2016). Maslach burnout inventory manual, fourth edition. Published by Mind Garden, Inc. Received from on October 19, 2018

McAdams, C. R. (2002, April). Trends in the occurrence of reactive and proactive aggression among children and adolescents: Implications for preparation and practice in child and youth care. In Child and Youth Care Forum (Vol. 31, No. 2, pp. 89-109). Kluwer Academic Publishers-Plenum Publishers.

McKenna, K. (2004). Study of work-related violence. Committee on Workplace Violence. North Eastern Health Board, Ireland, 1-121.

McManus, I. C., Winder, B. C., & Gordon, D. (2002). The causal links between stress and burnout in a longitudinal study of UK doctors. The Lancet, 359(9323), 2089-2090.

Mor Barak, M. E., Nissly, J. A., & Levin, A. (2001). Antecedents to retention and turnover among child welfare, social work, and other human service employees: What can we learn from past research? A review and metanalysis. Social service review, 75(4), 625-661.

Office for National Statistics (2017, March). Suicide by Occupation, England: 2011 to 2015. Office for National Statistics. andcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/suicidebyoccupation /england2011to2015

Rippon, T. J. (2000). Aggression and violence in health care professions. Journal of advanced nursing, 31(2), 452-460.

Ruotsalainen, J. H., Verbeek, J. H., Mariné, A., & Serra, C. (2016). Preventing occupational stress in healthcare workers. Sao Paulo Medical Journal, 134(1), 92-92.

Santos, A., Leather, P., Dunn, J., & Zarola, A. (2009). Gender differences in exposure to co-worker and public-initiated violence: Assessing the impact of work-related violence and aggression in police work. Work & stress, 23(2), 137-154.

Schat, A. C., & Kelloway, E. K. (2000). Effects of perceived control on the outcomes of workplace aggression and violence. Journal of occupational health psychology, 5(3), 386.

Smith, M., & Nursten, J. (1998). Social Workers' Experience of Distress—Moving Towards Change?. The British Journal of Social Work, 28(3), 351-368.

Spitzer, R. L., Md, K. K., & Williams, J. B. (1980). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Third Edition. In American psychiatric association.

Taylor, M. (2011). Understanding and responding to the emotional challenge of working in residential child care settings: the case for staff support groups. European Journal of Social Education.

Weiss, D. S., & Marmar, C. R. (1997). The Impact of Event Scale-Revised. In JP Wilson, & TM Keane (Eds.), 399–411. Assessing Psychological Trauma and PTSD: A Practitioner’s Handbook.

Whitaker, D., Archer, A., & Hicks, L. (1998). Working in children’s homes: Challenges and complexities. Wiley.

World Health Organization. (2009). Reducing violence through victim identification, care and support programmes.

Wren, M. A., Keegan, C., Walsh, B. M., Bergin, A., Eighan, J., Brick, A., ... & Banks, J. (2017). Projections of demand for healthcare in Ireland, 2015-2030: First report from the Hippocrates Model. Economic and Social Research Institute.

Zelnick, J. R., Slayter, E., Flanzbaum, B., Butler, N. G., Domingo, B., Perlstein, J., & Trust, C. (2013). Part of the job? Workplace violence in Massachusetts social service agencies. Health & social work, 38(2), 75-85.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2020 Daniel Dowling, Sonam Prakashini Banka

Publisher: DBS Library