Document Type

Finding a Fit: Family Realities and Service Responses Series (2003, 2007)

Publication Date



Faculty of Social Work


This paper provides an overview of research on burnout in human service workers, with an emphasis on findings relevant to social workers and other professionals in child welfare and children’s mental health and the organizations that employ them. It is intended to inform the reader about the developments in burnout research since the phenomenon was initially described, and to identify some issues and questions that need further study. Part one of the paper begins with a discussion of several definitions of burnout and its components. Part two outlines the variables that have been identified by research as antecedent to burnout, and as consequences of burnout. Part three describes several theoretical models that have been used to explain the causes of burnout and its relationship to other forms of stress, coping and organizational processes. Part four reviews and critiques some prevention literature, and offers additional thoughts for consideration when intervention is planned.