Arising from interest concerning the possibility of causal relationships among the three components of the Maslach Burnout Inventory, several process models have been proposed for the development of burnout. The present paper first reviews the evidence in favour of the three most influential of these (Leiter and Maslach's model (1988); Golembiewski, Boudreau, Munzenrider, & Luo's (1996) phase model; and Lee and Ashforth's model (1993)). These three models, and our own model (which integrates of two of them, and includes feedback effects of depersonalization on emotional exhaustion) are then compared with each other using structural equation modelling, drawing on longitudinal data from two Dutch samples (total N=1185). The review revealed that none of the seven previous studies on this issue provided any convincing support for any particular causal order proposed so far. In contrast, our own study showed that high levels of exhaustion were associated with high levels of depersonalization over time across both samples. Further, higher levels of depersonalization led to higher levels of emotional exhaustion and lower levels of personal accomplishment. To our knowledge, the present research is the first to provide reliable longitudinal evidence for the conceptualization of burnout as a developmental process, although the effects are not large enough to be of practical use in the recognition of burnout
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