School & District Management

School ‘Burnout': Finnish Researchers Find It’s All in the Family

By Debra Viadero — January 20, 2010 1 min read
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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 state of the economy. It also makes me question exactly what it is the researchers are talking about—simple depression or a school-specific syndrome?

One wonders, though, if these findings predict an epidemic of burnout among teenagers around the world. More to the point, perhaps, is there anything schools can do about it?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.