Scholarly article on topic 'The Impact of Verbal Aggression on Burnout: An Empirical Study on University Students'

The Impact of Verbal Aggression on Burnout: An Empirical Study on University Students Academic research paper on "Psychology"

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Abstract of research paper on Psychology, author of scientific article — Huseyin Yaratan, Orhan Uludag

Abstract Undergraduate university students (n=1481) participated in the current study to investigate the effect of verbal aggression on emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy (burnout). The sample of the study has been collected at a university in Northern Cyprus. Results revealed that verbal aggression had a significantly positive relationship with emotional exhaustion. Furthermore, verbal aggression was found to be positively associated with cynicism significantly. In addition, verbal aggression had a significant positive association with reduced professional efficacy. Inclusion of control variables into the equation of regression did not confound the effect of verbal aggression on emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy. The study concludes with implications, limitations, and avenues for future research.

Academic research paper on topic "The Impact of Verbal Aggression on Burnout: An Empirical Study on University Students"

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Social and Behavioral Sciences

Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 46 (2012) 41 - 46

WCES 2012

The impact of verbal aggression on burnout: An empirical study on

university students

Huseyin Yaratan a, Orhan Uludag b *

aEastern Mediterranean University, Gazimagusa, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus bGirne American University, Girne, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

Abstract

Undergraduate university students (n=1481) participated in the current study to investigate the effect of verbal aggression on emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy (burnout). The sample of the study has been collected at a university in Northern Cyprus. Results revealed that verbal aggression had a significantly positive relationship with emotional exhaustion. Furthermore, verbal aggression was found to be positively associated with cynicism significantly. In addition, verbal aggression had a significant positive association with reduced professional efficacy. Inclusion of control variables into the equation of regression did not confound the effect of verbal aggression on emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy. The study concludes with implications, limitations, and avenues for future research.

© 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu

Keywords: Verbal aggression; burnout; higher education; North Cyprus.

1. Introduction

Hostility, anger, and aggression are often used alternately. However, research has shown that these are distinct constructs and represented differently in the same multidimensional construct of cognitive, affective, and behavioral components (Buss & Perry, 1992). Hence, the construct could be viewed as three dimensions. i) Cognitive, it is comprised of negative thoughts of human temperament, resentment, and cynicism. ii) Affective, deals with emotions such as anger and loathing. iii) Behavioral, composed of a range of aggressiveness such as verbal aggression (Buss & Perry, 1992). However, a careful review of the literature states that the aforementioned constructs have potential problems and leads to perplexity. Hence, verbal aggression was utilized from the modified version of Aggression Questionnaire (AQ) by Garcia-Leon et al. (2002) which was originally developed by Buss and Perry (1992). Verbal aggression is defined as "hurting or harming others, represent the instrumental or motor component of the behavior" (Buss & Perry, 1992, p. 457).

Burnout has been distinguished as a three-dimensional syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and lack of personal accomplishment. Emotional exhaustion refers to the "depletion of emotional resources owing to demands of interpersonal contacts". Depersonalization is described as "cynical attitudes toward one's job". Lack of personal accomplishment is the "tendency to evaluate one's work negatively" (Maslach & Jackson, 1981, p. 99). In detail, burnout in instructional context and/or students refer to "feelings of exhaustion due to study demands, cynical

ELSEVIER

* Huseyin Yaratan. Tel.: +90-392-650-2000 E-mail address: orhanuludag@gau.edu.tr

1877-0428 © 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.05.064

attitudes toward one's studies, and feelings of ineptness as a student" (Schaufeli, Salanova, Gonzales-Roma, & Bakker, 2002, p. 73). The dimensions of burnout are; emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy.

The empirical studies of Chroy (2007) and Chory-Assad (2002) state that measurement of aggression in instructional settings is in infant stage and requires further investigation. Furthermore, Uludag and Yaratan (2010) propose that investigation of burnout in higher education is needed to comprehend the scope of this syndrome in university students which in turn will contribute to the theory of burnout. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the effect of verbal aggression on students' emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy to yield a better understanding of the relationships among these constructs.

2. Hypotheses

In a recent empirical study Karatepe, Yorganci, and Haktanir (2009) has found that verbal aggression was significantly related to emotional exhaustion. In addition, Karatepe, Haktanir and Yorganci (2010) depicted a significant positive among verbal aggression and emotional exhaustion. Very recently, Uludag (2011) has illustrated significant relationships among verbal aggression, emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy using a sample of undergraduate university students. Particularly, verbal aggression was positively related to emotional exhaustion and cynicism and negatively related to reduced professional efficacy. In light of the aforementioned facts and relationships, the current study proposes the following hypotheses:

H1. Verbal aggression is positively associated to emotional exhaustion.

H2. Verbal aggression is positively associated to cynicism.

H3. Verbal aggression is positively associated to reduce professional efficacy.

3. Method

3.1. Sample

The sample of the current research consisted of undergraduate university students in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Convenience sampling procedure (sometimes referred to as opportunity or accidental sampling) was utilized in order to collect data. Convenience sampling is defined as selecting the items from the population based on accessibility and ease of selection (Groebner, Shannon, Fry, & Smith, 2005). Moreover, in order to test the variations in the data the Mahalonobis distance test was employed to purify the outlier effects within the data set. The accepted cut-off value for Mahalonobis test was ±2.5. The results yielded no outliers within the data set.

3.2. Data Collection

Self-administered questionnaires were distributed to the students to collect data. The time of data collection began in February, 2010 and ended in May, 2010. Participants voluntarily participated in this research and they were not promised any grade, extra credit, or incentives for completion of the survey instrument. The researchers assured the anonymity of the participants. By the cut-off date 1750 respondents were reached at the most populated area of the university. However, 200 of these participants rejected to fill out the questionnaire. Hence, 1550 questionnaires were collected during the specified time-frame. Additional screening to questionnaires was conducted to ensure that there was no missing information. After careful examination, 69 of the questionnaires had missing data; hence, they were eliminated from further analyses. After all necessary screening the total number of useful questionnaires were 1481. This has yielded a response rate of 84.6%.

3.3. Questionnaire and Measures

There were two sets of questionnaire prepared for the current study. First, an original version was specifically designed for the international students at the research location. Second, a Turkish version was prepared for the Turkish students. The items in the survey instrument was first prepared in English and then back translated into Turkish by utilizing the back translation method suggested by Mullen (1995). Faculty members, who were experts (fluent in both languages) in their field, have tested the cross-linguistic comparability of the questionnaire. This approach was necessary to produce similar meaning to the original version (English) instead of just focusing on the literal meaning in Turkish.

A pilot sample was conducted to 50 students to check the understandability of the survey items. Respondents who filled out the questionnaire had no problems in understanding the survey questions. Hence, no changes were made to the original questionnaire. According to the feedback obtained from the faculty members and the pilot study, questionnaire had no understandability issues and further provided face validity.

Measures for the current study were utilized from prior empirical studies. Verbal Aggression is utilized from the Aggression Questionnaire (AQ) that was developed by Garcia-Leon et al. (2002). 8 items for verbal aggression (sample item: My friends say that I'm somewhat argumentative) were utilized. All items of verbal aggression are represented in the Likert scale as follows: (1=strongly disagree; 2= Disagree; 3=Neither agree nor disagree; 4=Agree; 5=Strongly agree). To measure burnout MBI-SS (Maslach Burnout Inventory - Student Survey) from Schaufeli, Martinez, et al. (2002) was employed. 5 items were used to measure exhaustion (sample item: I feel emotionally drained by my studies), 4 items were utilized to measure cynicism (sample item: I have become more cynical about the potential usefulness of my studies), and 6 items were used to measure professional efficacy (sample item: I have learned many interesting things during the course of my studies). All items of burnout are represented in the Likert scale as follows: (1=Strongly disagree; 2= Disagree; 3=Neither agree nor disagree; 4=Agree; 5=Strongly agree).

4. Results

Demographic breakdown of the sample illustrated that there is an even distribution of age and gender of the collected sample. Majority of the students (48.6%) ranged between the ages of 22-26. 702 students (47.4%) were in the age category of 17-21. Furthermore, 58 students (3.9%) ranged between the ages of 27-31 and only 1 student (0.1%) was in the age category of 32 and above. 737 (49.8%) of the respondents were female and the rest of the respondents (744) were male (50.2%). Class-size variable was included to assess if students were in an ideal classroom or overcrowded classroom environment. Majority of the students (969, 65.4%) reported that the class-size was ideal. However, 512 of the students (34.6%) reported that the class-size was overcrowded.

The results of the multiple regression analyses are depicted in Table 1. Control variables were incorporated into the regression analyses to test if there were any confounding effects among control variables and study variables. Results demonstrated that there were no confounding results. However, some of the control variables had an effect on the study variables. Gender had a positive impact on cynicism. This indicates that males have higher cynical attitudes towards their studies. Furthermore, gender and class-size had a negative impact on reduced professional efficacy. This demonstrates that females have higher levels of reduced professional efficacy. In addition, students in ideal classroom environment also have higher levels of reduced professional efficacy.

Huseyin Yaratan and Orhan Uludag / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 46 (2012) 41 Table 1. Multiple regression analyses

Emotional Exhaustion

P t VIF

Variables

Age .035 1.31 1.07

Gender -.002 -.075 1.06

Class-size .016 .637 1.01

Verbal aggression .187 7.32 1.00

Cynicism

Step 2

Age .034 1.29 1.07

Gender .069 2.60 1.06

Class-size .031 1.22 1.01

Verbal aggression .141 5.50 1.00

Reduced Professional

Efficacy

Step 3

Age .004 .166 1.07

Gender -.098 -3.74 1.06

Class-size -.082 -3.21 1.01

Verbal aggression .145 5.65 1.00

Notes: Emotional exhaustion was dependent variable on the first step, cynicism was dependent on the second step and reduced professional efficacy was dependent on the third step. Gender (0=female, 1=male) and class-size (0=ideal classroom, 1=overcrowded classroom) was coded as a dichotomous variable. Multi-collinearity was not an issue since all variance inflation factor (VIF) values were less than 5 (Groebner, Shannon, Fry, & Smith, 2005). t values 2.00 or above are significant.

It was hypothesized that verbal aggression was positively associated to emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy. The result of the multiple regression analyses reveals that these predictions were significant. Particularly, verbal aggression was positively related to emotional exhaustion (P= .187, t= 7.32), thus hypothesis 1 is supported. Hypothesis 2 predicted a positive impact of verbal aggression on cynicism. The results illustrate that this prediction is significant (P= .141, t= 5.50), hence hypothesis 2 is supported. Finally, verbal aggression was predicted to exert a positive impact on reduced professional efficacy. The results show that this prediction is significant (|3= .145, t= 5.65), thus hypothesis 3 is supported.

5. Discussion

The purpose of the current study was to investigate the effect of verbal aggression on emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy using a sample of undergraduate university students. Multiple regression analyses were conducted to test the study hypotheses. Inclusion of control variables into the regression analyses did not confound the results. The results suggest that students with verbal aggressive behaviors tend to have higher levels of emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy. In detail, verbal aggression increases emotional exhaustion. This finding is consistent with the prior empirical studies (Karatepe, Haktanir, & Yorganci, 2010; Karatepe, Yorganci, & Haktanir, 2009; Uludag, 2011). Moreover, verbal aggression increases cynicism of students. This finding is also consonant with the study of Uludag (2011). Furthermore, verbal aggression increases reduced professional efficacy. This finding is contrary to the findings of Uludag (2011) where a negative relationship among verbal aggression and reduced professional efficacy was found. The findings of this study add new evidence to the educational research knowledgebase where a deeper understanding is necessary in

relation to verbal aggression (Chory, 2007; Chory-Assad, 2002) and burnout (Uludag & Yaratan, 2010) in the educational settings.

5.1. Implications

The current study suggests that verbal aggression may be inherent in the educational context. Although the results cannot yield causality among constructs, the findings are warranted. Recent study by Uludag (2011) has suggested that verbal aggression elevates the burnout levels of students. The antecedents of verbal aggression are not examined within the scope of this study. However, it is plausible to state that verbal aggressive behaviors could be triggered from various aspects that may stem from educational environment (e.g. teacher/student, peer/student relations, and justice perceptions of students in a classroom). Additionally, externally motivating students will help them to avoid anti-social behaviors which in turn may reduce the burnout levels of students, hence, increasing their achievement levels (cf. Uludag & Yaratan, 2011; Girkin, Kurt & Odabasi, 2011; Peltokorpi & Maattta, 2010; Bhatti & Qazi, 2011; Tella, Tella & Adeniyi, 2009). Furthermore, school administrators/teachers should assign mentors or guidance counselors for students who exhibit anti-social behaviors to minimize the negative impact of verbal aggression.

5.2. Limitations and directions for future research

The current study possesses some limitations that should be noted. First, collection of cross-sectional data may possess the bias of common-method. Future studies should aim to obtain data with the use of cross-cultural, longitudinal designs or time-lagged methods to eliminate this issue. Second, the data was collected at a single institution. This may create problems for the issue of generalizability. Although the sample size is sufficient, future studies should aim to collect data from numerous institutions to eliminate or lower the problems associated with generalizability. Third, examination of the antecedents of verbal aggression is needed to determine the elements associated with verbal aggressive behaviors. Future research could incorporate important elements such as motivation, justice perceptions, course loads, and teacher-student relations to shed a further light into our understanding and the relationships among the constructs examined in this study.

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