Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Social Work

Degree Program

Social Work, PhD

Committee Chair

Barbee, Anita

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Collins-Camargo, Crystal

Committee Member

Sar, Bibhuti

Committee Member

Yingling, Marissa

Committee Member

Flaherty, Christopher

Author's Keywords

Intellectual Disability: Developmental Disability: Secondary Traumatic Stress: Burnout: Outcomes: Indirect Trauma:


Direct support professionals (DSPs) provide a wide range of support services to persons with ID/DD to ensure their safety and welfare, development of independent living skills and integrate into their community. Existing literature has shown that as frontline workers, DSPs face various occupational hazards such as burnout, yet very little is known about prevalence of secondary trauma stress (STS) among DSPs.

The present study examines the prevalence of STS and the predictive factors of STS and burnout among DSPs who work with adults with ID/DD. In addition, the study looked at the relationships between burnout and STS on organization-related outcomes, client-related outcome and staff-related outcomes. The findings confirm that the prevalence of STS (13%) in the DSPs in ID/DD population is consistent with other professionals such as foster parents and social workers but lower than others such as child welfare workers and juvenile justice workers. Various individual, interpersonal and organizational factors served as risk factors (client challenging behaviors, workers’ own trauma history, exposure to client trauma) and protective factors (personal resilience and organizational support) in predicting burnout and STS among DSPs. Also, STS and burnout predicted organization-related, client-related and staff-related outcomes at varied levels, suggesting that, STS and burnout have significant material effects on ID/DD clients’ success, staff well-being and organization viability. An SEM analysis revealed a complex relationship between the predictor variables and STS and burnout, and staff intent to leave. Implications of the findings to social work practice, education and research are discussed.