The importance of context specificity in work stress research: A test of the Demand-Control-Support model in academics

Carol McClenahan, Melanie Giles, John Mallett

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The Demand-Control (D-C) (Karasek, 1979) and the Demand-Control-Support (D-C-S) (Johnson & Hall, 1988; Johnson, Hall, & Theorell, 1989; Karasek & Theorell, 1990) models of work stress suggest that jobs with high demands and low control (and low support) are stressful. In line with the support in the literature for context-specificity in occupational stress research (Sparks & Cooper, 1999) and the limited and even contradictory support for interaction effects, the main aim of the present study was to examine how the D-C-S model applied in a well-defined occupational group. Using hierarchical regression analyses, and controlling for negative affect, the D-C-S model accounted for 26%, 6%, and 8% of the variance in job satisfaction, psychological distress and burnout, respectively, among 166 academics in a UK university. No two-way or three-way interactive effects were evident, but additive effects of job demands and control on psychological well-being and of job demands and support on both burnout and job satisfaction were shown, corroborating research showing that high job strain is linked to ill health and job dissatisfaction in this homogenous occupational sample. It is recommended that, in future, research includes more variables that are specific to a particular occupation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-95
JournalWork and Stress
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007


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