Survey links men's stress responses to male teacher shortage

Heightened stress could be causing a widespread shortage of male teachers in Australian classrooms, according to a Charles Darwin University researcher.

Acting Associate Professor in Pedagogy and Learning Dr Gretchen Geng said research suggested males’ tendencies to internalise issues rather than seek support could explain their high stress levels.

Dr Geng made the observation after surveying 55 male and 255 female pre-service teachers, with co-researcher CDU Professor of Health in Education Richard Midford, to compare their stress levels.

The stress levels of participants were based on a questionnaire and the world-recognised Perceived Stress Scale.

“I was expecting the female group to have higher or similar stress levels because females tend to have higher stress levels in the general population, but this was not the case,” she said.

Dr Geng said the average Perceived Stress Scale score for male participants was significantly higher than for the female participants, at 22.69 compared with 20.87 for the latter group.

She said the scores for both groups were higher than the normal range of stress levels for the general population, which ranged between 14.52 and 17.73.

“The females would form support networks with their peers, lecturers and mentors, while the males preferred to deal with their stress themselves than talk about it to others,” she said.

“The male pre-service teachers also appeared to be more competitive and would go into fight-or-flight mode rather than seek support.”

Dr Geng said male pre-service teachers’ stress levels increased drastically with age, with 18 to 25 year-old male participants scoring 17.25, while male participants aged 50 years and older scored 27.75.

“Perhaps this is due to the social roles for males, that they have to be the breadwinner of the family and that pressure might encourage them to change careers,” Dr Geng said.

Males made up less than 30% of the nation’s 290,854 schoolteachers according to the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data (2011).