Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Psychology

First Advisor

Vincent B. Van Hasselt

Second Advisor

Ryan A. Black

Third Advisor

Quina Munson


burnout, firefighter, first responder, resilience


The occupational stress inherent to firefighting has consistently been associated in the literature with a number of adverse physiological and psychological risks. Several investigations have examined the dynamics of firefighter-related stress and job burnout. However, there is little research on strategies to promote resilience and reduce burnout in this population. Resilience refers to an individual’s ability to “maintain relatively stable, healthy levels of psychological and physical functioning” when faced with adverse events and has been found to have a central role in coping with stressors and trauma (Bonanno, 2004, p.20). Extant research has identified factors such as hope, optimism and social support as being essential to the development of resilient responses to adversity and promoting overall well-being. The purpose of the present study was to identify factors that promote resilience in firefighters and examine their relationship to level of burnout.

A series of six mediation analyses were conducted to evaluate whether resilience mediates the relationship between these individual, resilience-promoting factors (e.g., hope, optimism, and social support) and occupational burnout in a sample of 171 firefighters. Results revealed that resilience did not significantly mediate this relationship, however findings were directionally consistent with our hypotheses such that as hope, optimism and social support increase, individual resilience increases, in turn reducing burnout.

Further, these results are likely influenced largely by our small sample size and high rates of socially desirable responding. This study highlights the importance of exploring positive psychology factors in understanding the reduction of job burnout among firefighters. By identifying personal factors associated with increased resilience and reduced burnout, more efficacious approaches can be implemented to improve stress management for firefighters. The implications of these findings including limitations and future directions are discussed.

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