Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


First Advisor

Dr. Holly Hatton

Second Advisor

Dr. Carrie Clark

Third Advisor

Dr. Gilbert Parra

Date of this Version

Spring 4-20-2023

Document Type



Starr, E. J. (2023). Job stress moderates the effects of a mindfulness intervention on early childhood teachers' emotion dysregulation [Master's thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln].


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Child, Youth and Family Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Holly Hatton-Bowers. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2023

Copyright © 2023 Emily J. Starr


Addressing the current crisis of early childhood (EC) teacher turnover is essential for supporting the development of young children. Teacher attrition remains a concern for policymakers globally, and in the United States, early childhood teachers frequently cite job stress and lack of support as reasons for leaving the field. For over 40 years, researchers who study childcare have been concerned about the consequences of work-related stressors. Even if these stressors do not result in turnover, EC teachers’ psychological well-being may be impacted, leading to increased emotion regulation difficulties and more frequent negative teacher-child interactions. Young children’s emotional development is significantly influenced by their experiences in these early education settings, especially by their relationships and interactions with their teachers.

Mindfulness-based interventions have emerged as promising approaches for reducing teacher stress and burnout. It is unknown, however, whether responsiveness to these types of interventions may differ based on individuals’ baseline characteristics. The current study aimed to investigate moderators of intervention responsiveness by examining whether the impact of an eight-week compassion-based mindfulness intervention on emotion dysregulation differs for EC teachers with differing levels of job stress at baseline. Approximately 157 EC teachers completed online surveys including demographics, the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS), the Child Care Worker Job Stress Inventory, and the Effort-Reward Imbalance Scale at both pre- and post-intervention. Previous work with the current intervention offered preliminary evidence that participation in the mindfulness compassion-based program decreased early childhood teachers’ emotion dysregulation. We aimed to replicate and extend these findings in an independent sample and use moderation analyses to further our understanding of this intervention. Analyses revealed a significant interaction between intervention assignment and childcare worker job stress as predictors of change in emotion dysregulation from pre to post. In this way, the intervention effect depended on levels of job stress, such that early childhood teachers reporting the highest levels of job stress at baseline demonstrated the largest intervention effects on emotion dysregulation. Assessing individuals’ baseline and contextual characteristics, such as childcare worker job stress, may inform efforts to match teachers with interventions likely to be most effective for them.

Advisor: Holly Hatton-Bowers