Perceived sources of stress among Connecticut superintendents: An exploratory study

Date of Completion

January 1998


Education, Administration|Education, Educational Psychology|Psychology, Industrial




This study explored the perceived sources of stress experienced by superintendents in Connecticut public schools. The study also sought to determine the differences, if any, in the perceived sources of stress experienced by superintendents in high and low Educational Reference Groups (ERGs), a system used in the state of Connecticut to classify school districts based on socio-economic status.^ Stages one and two of the Administrative Stress Cycle (Gmelch & Swent, 1980) comprised the theoretical framework for the study. Two instruments, the Administrative Stress Index (ASI) and the Superintendent Stress Inventory (SSI) were used in this study. The ASI (Koch, Tung, Gmelch & Swent, 1982) is a 35-item instrument for measuring four factors of job-related stress: role-based, task-based, boundary-spanning, and conflict-mediating stress perceived by school administrators. The SSI was adapted from Blase's (1986) Teacher Stress Inventory, a qualitative instrument designed to collect interpretative data on work stress. The ASI was distributed to all superintendents in Connecticut public schools (n = 149). Using the SSI as protocol, interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of superintendents from the high and low ERGs (n = 16) to enhance the depth of the study.^ Results showed that board relations, politics, personnel issues, workload, time, crisis management, complying with mandates, and public/community demands and criticism are the major sources of stress perceived by Connecticut superintendents.^ Findings also indicated significant differences between superintendents in high ERGs and superintendents in low ERGs with respect to role-based stress, task-based stress, boundary-spanning stress, and conflict-mediating stress. Superintendents in high ERGs perceived higher levels of stress in all four stress factors than superintendents in low ERGs.^ The study provides insights which might help in the preparation of superintendents as well as inservice for incumbent superintendents. ^