Israel Sánchez-Cardona, Ph.D., Department of Psychological Sciences, Kennesaw State University (Kennesaw, GA, USA); Eric Rivera-Colón, M.A., Third Mission Institute, Albizu University (San Juan, Puerto Rico); Lili Sardiñas, Ph.D., Third Mission Institute, Albizu University (San Juan, Puerto Rico); Paloma Torres-Dávila, Ph.D., Third Mission Institute, Albizu University (San Juan, Puerto Rico); Marizaida Sánchez-Cesáreo, Ph.D., Third Mission Institute, Albizu University (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
This study investigates the role of psychological capital as a buffer of the effect of ACE on subjective well-being and job burnout.
Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) have a long-lasting effect on health and future life experiences (Shonkoff et al., 2012). Workers who report high ACE show higher levels of stress (Lee et al., 2017), depression, anxiety, PTSD, reduced compassionate capacity (LaMott & Martin, 2018), poor job performance (Anda et al., 2004), unemployment, and career challenges (Hughes et al., 2017; Giovanelli et al., 2016). Given that ACE has a detrimental effect on well-being indicators (e.g., depression, anxiety), these serve as mechanisms that link ACE to work-related outcomes (LaMott & Martin, 2018). We proposed that ACE will relate to job burnout through its effect on subjective well-being (H1).
Despite the available research on factors that mitigate the effect of ACE on well-being, no study has investigated the role of psychological capital, a positive psychological state comprised of hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism (Luthans et al., 2007). Psychological capital positively affects work attitudes and performance (Luthans et al., 2007) and helps to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety (Liu et al., 2013). One distinct characteristic of psychological capital is its malleability and openness to development through training interventions (Lupşa et al., 2020). We propose that high levels of psychological capital will buffer the effects of ACE on well-being and its indirect effect on job burnout through subjective well-being.
We collected the data from 359 workers at a public organization in Puerto Rico dedicated to providing early education services as part of an organizational assessment. Participants were compensated with a $30 gift card per completing an online assessment. Most participants were female (94.4%), with a mean age of 44.29 (SD= 11.07), and with more than 11 years working in the agency (56.3%). We used the following measure in Spanish: Adverse Childhood Experiences was measure with an instrument developed by Filleti et al. (1998), in which participants reported if they experienced abuse, neglect, and challenges at home before 18 years old. Subjective well-being was measure with the World Health Organization Well-Being Index (WHO-5) (α=.93) (Topp et al., 2015). Job burnout was measure with 4-item from the Copenhagen Psychosocial Inventory-II (Moncada et al., 2014) (α=.91). Psychological capital was measured with the Compound Psychological Capital developed by Lorenz et al. (2016) (α=.90). To test the simple mediation (H1) and conditional process (H2) hypotheses, we used models 4 and 7 from the SPSS macro-PROCESS (Hayes, 2018). The significance of the indirect and interaction effects was evaluated using bias-corrected bootstrap 95% confidence intervals (CI). The moderated mediation index was computed as inferential tests to assess whether the conditional indirect effect was statistically significant. We controlled for age and gender in all the analyses.
The results of the simple mediation analysis (Model 4) show that the total effect of ACE on job burnout is not significant. However, ACE have a direct negative effect on general well-being. The indirect effect of ACE on burnout through general well-being was also significant (H1 supported). Further, the results of the conditional analysis (model 7) show that the moderating effect of psychological capital on the indirect effect of ACE on job burnout through subjective well-being was significant (Figure 1). At low levels of psychological capital, the effect of ACE on burnout via subjective well-being is greater (b=.36, 95% BaCI [.22, .51]). At high levels of psychological capital, the indirect effect is not significant (b=.02, 95% BaCI [-.11, .16]) (H2 supported). Figure 1. Research model with unstandardized coefficients
The results indicate that ACE have a negative effect on job burnout through the individual’s subjective well-being. This is in line with previous research, which indicated that psychological and physical health mechanisms explain the effect of ACE on work-related outcomes. One key finding is the moderating effect of psychological capital on this process. When psychological capital is high, the effect of ACE on subjective well-being and subsequently on job burnout is not significant. Nevertheless, the effect is stronger at low levels of psychological capital. This suggests that psychological capital (hope, efficacy, resilience, optimism) as a set of interactive, synergetic resources has a unique impact on the well-being of individuals with multiple adverse experiences. However, this study has some limitations that restrict the generalizability and causality inferences of the results: 1) small sample size; 2) data from one organization; 3) the cross-sectional data; and 4) retrospective ACE reports. Future longitudinal studies with broader samples should be conducted to cross-validate these findings.
This study provides empirical evidence for the potential of psychological capital interventions to mitigate the effect of ACE on subjective and work-related well-being. Future research should be conducted on the effectiveness of psychological capital interventions as cost-effective tools to improve positive outcomes among workers with high ACE.