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

Mailis Elomaa (Department of Teacher Education, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Eija Pakarinen (Department of Teacher Education, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Sirpa Eskelä-Haapanen (Department of Teacher Education, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Leena Halttunen (University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Antje Von Suchodoletz (New York University - Abu Dhabi Campus, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
Marja-Kristiina Lerkkanen (Department of Teacher Education, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)

International Journal of Educational Management

ISSN: 0951-354X

Article publication date: 3 April 2020

Issue publication date: 8 June 2020




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.


A mixed method approach was used.


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.


The current study is among the few ones focusing on the stress of directors at early childhood education (ECE) settings.



This study was supported by the Finnish Work Environment Fund (No. 117142 for 2017–2020). The data collection was partly supported by a New York University Abu Dhabi Research Enhancement Fund grant (No. RE059). The first author was supported by a University of Jyväskylä research grant (1.12.2017 – 31.6.2019).Disclosure statement: No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.


Elomaa, M., Pakarinen, E., Eskelä-Haapanen, S., Halttunen, L., Von Suchodoletz, A. and Lerkkanen, M.-K. (2020), "Directors' stress in day care centers: related factors and coping strategies", International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 34 No. 6, pp. 1079-1091.



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