A structural path to job satisfaction, burnout, and intent to leave among child protection workers: A South Korean study

Youngsoon Chung & Hyekyung Choo - Children and Youth Services Review


The child protection service workforce has been constantly challenged by high turnover due to the stressful nature of the job. To address high turnover, prior research has examined a wide range of predictors of child protection workers' intent to leave. This study aimed to identify the interrelationships of risk and protective factors, job satisfaction and burnout to child protection workers' intent to leave, the relative impact between job satisfaction and burnout on intent to leave, and their mediating roles for the risk and protective factors. Analyzing survey data from 93.9% of all public child protection workers in South Korea, we estimated a structural path from risk and protective factors to child protection workers' job satisfaction, burnout, and intent to leave. Path analysis revealed that with the significant effects of emotional exhaustion (β = 0.52, p < 0.000) and a diminished sense of personal accomplishment (β = 0.13, p < 0.024) on intent to leave, the organizational risk factors of role overload (β = 0.12, p < 0.000), safety concerns at work (β = 0.06, p < 0.021), and secondary traumatic stress (β = 0.09, p < 0.003) increased workers' intent to leave indirectly through emotional exhaustion. Rapport with supervisor (β = −0.15, p < 0.010) directly mitigated intent to leave. There was no significant effect of job satisfaction on intent to leave. Results suggest that for effective retention of child protection service manpower, it is crucial to prevent workers' emotional exhaustion by alleviating stressful working conditions and strengthening supervisory support.