Directors' stress in day care centers: related factors and coping strategies

Mailis Elomaa, Eija Pakarinen, Sirpa Eskelä-Haapanen, Leena Halttunen, Antje Von Suchodoletz, Marja Kristiina Lerkkanen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This study aims to explore what causes stress to day care center directors and what their coping strategies are. In addition, the study examined the extent to which directors experience work-related stress and burnout, and the factors associated with their work-related stress, engagement and recovery from work. Design/methodology/approach: A mixed method approach was used. Findings: The results showed that the main sources of directors' stress were connected to leading oneself, leading others, managing change and lack of social support. Moreover, the main coping strategies with stress were leading oneself, social support and leading others. In addition, both pre- and in-service leadership training played a significant role in the experience of stress. The nature of factors causing stress and coping strategies with stress may imply that directors need further support in self-management and developing their internal competences. Research limitations/implications: The present study has limitations that need to be considered when making generalizations. First, a small sample size limits the generalization of the findings. Second, the study relied solely on one source of information, i.e. directors' self-reports. Third, data were collected only at one time point at the end of the year when stress levels might have accumulated. Finally, the study has been done in the Finnish educational context where day care center directors' job description varies depending on municipality. Practical implications: The findings provide important information about the causes of directors' work-related stress as well as their coping strategies and about factors that might be related to those. Social implications: Because directors' stress impact on children’s development and well-being through teachers' well-being, it is crucial to pay attention on directors' well-being and provide more support for them. Originality/value: The current study is among the few ones focusing on the stress of directors at early childhood education (ECE) settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1079-1091
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 8 2020


  • Coping strategies
  • Day care center director
  • Early childhood education
  • Educational leadership
  • Occupational stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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