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Psychology in the Schools, Vol. 50(10), 2013

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2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

DOI: 10.1002/pits.21723



Seoul Cyber University


University of Florida

Myongji University

Korea University

Korean adolescents experience considerable stress because of an educational system that focuses
primarily on college entrance examinations, pressure for academic achievement, and a competitive
atmosphere in school. The main purpose of this study was to explore age differences in the construct
of Korean adolescents academic burnout. Once assumptions of configural, factor loading, and
intercept invariance were satisfied, we compared means of latent variables (four components
of academic burnout in the present study). Results of the latent mean analysis showed that all
four subscales (exhaustion, antipathy, cynicism, and inefficacy) of academic burnout increased
gradually as age increased. Moving from elementary to middle and middle to high school appears
to be stressful for students. Implications for school professionals and recommendations for future
C 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
research are discussed. 

According to the 2006 survey of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Developments
Program for International Students Assessment, Korean students ranked high in reading, math, and
science. This result demonstrated Korean adolescents high level of academic achievement. Korean
society sanctions and expects high levels of academic achievement from its students (Wollam, 1992;
Yang, Kim, Patel, & Lee, 2005). Students in turn seek admission to and graduation from high-ranking
universities, which leads to prestigious professional work and higher social status. Adolescents feel
pressure to study hard (Lee & Larson, 2000). Korean adolescents devote great blocks of time to
studying (Chung, Kim, Lee, Kwon, & Lee, 1993; Jwa, Moon, & Yoon, 2009), reflecting their
aspiration for high levels of academic achievement. This pressure toward academic achievement is
evident in Asian students, in general, and Korean adolescents, in particular, leading to excessive
academic stress and mental health problems (Shek, 1995). Korean adolescents were reported to have
more negative emotions toward education than adolescents in Western societies (Diener, Suh, Smith,
& Shao, 1995) and to have higher levels of depression than American adolescents (Lee & Larson,
2000). Korean adolescents academic stress is a significant problem (Kim, Yoon, & So, 2008; Park
& Chong, 2010; Park & Kim, 2009; Park & Lee, 2009; Oh, 2010) and can lead to increased academic
In essence, extant research indicated that Korean adolescents experience considerable stress
because of contextual (i.e., school, family, society) pressures toward academic achievement (Hwang,
2008; Lee, 2006). Additionally, a competitive atmosphere in school (Moon, 2006; Park & Chung,
2010) and an educational system that emphasizes college entrance examinations (Lee & Larson,
2000; Moon, 2006; Moon & Jwa, 2008) add to this stress. Finally, a lack of communication between
Portions of this article are based on a doctoral dissertation by Jayoung Lee, completed in August 2010 at Korea
University. This research is based on work supported by the ASAN Foundation Grant R0908921.
Correspondence to: Sang Min Lee, Department of Education, College of Education, Korea University,
Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, Korea. E-mail:



Lee et al.

parents and teachers (Huan, See, Ang, & Har, 2008, Kim & Kim, 2009; Park & Chung, 2010) may
compound the problem for these youths. Arguably, all of these factors may converge to generate
great pressure for Korean students at every grade level.
Excessive academic stress influences, directly and indirectly, students adjustment to school
and contributes to mental anguish, leading to various maladaptive behaviors, including delinquency
problems (Lee & Larson, 2000; Shek, 1995). For example, Korean adolescents academic stress has
been been found to be significantly, positively related to cigarette smoking (Juon, Shin, & Nam, 1995)
and Internet addiction (Ah & Jeong, 2010; Ju, 2011). Therefore, research about the academic burnout
syndrome in Korean adolescents is an important endeavor toward not only understanding academic
stress but also developing stress-reduction programs and counseling interventions. Although some
Korean researchers (Park, Lee, Choi, Jin, & Lee, 2010) reported the relationship between age and
academic burnout, they studied the process of academic burnout only in middle school students.
Therefore, there is limited knowledge about the academic burnout of Korean adolescents across
elementary, middle, and high schools. Most studies (Eccles & Midgley, 1989; Eccles et al., 1993;
Ge, Lorenz, Conger, Elder, & Simons, 1994; Larson & Ham, 1993; Tepper, Liu, Guo, Zhaic, Liu,
& Li, 2008) reported that many students experience greater academic stress and maladjustment as
they move forward in grades. Thus, the main purpose of this study was to explore age differences in
the construct of Korean adolescents academic burnout.



The term burnout, defined as a psychological syndrome resulting from chronic job stress,
began to appear in the stress-related literature in the mid-1970s (Maslach, 1982). Freudenberger
(1974) labeled emotional depletion and loss of motivation as burnout. Burnout is a syndrome of
emotional exhaustion (feelings of drain and tiredness), depersonalization (treating others as impersonal objects), and a sense of diminished accomplishment (feelings of inefficiency, ineffectiveness,
and inadequacy). It is a term mainly used in the field of occupational stress, especially for individuals
who do people-work of some kind (Maslach & Jackson, 1981).
Initial research in this area focused on burnout of human service professionals, for example,
teachers and nurses (Cedoline, 1982; McConnell, 1982; Skovholt, 2001). More recently, burnout
research has been conducted on other groups, for example, businesspersons (Gryskiewicz & Buttner,
1992), managers (Lee & Ashforth, 1993), and professional soldiers (Leiter, Clark, & Durup, 1994).
It has also expanded to focus on various types of performance of ones duties (Chambel & Curral,
2005; Maslach & Leiter, 1997), and on students (Balogun, Helgemoe, Pellegrini, & Hoeberlein,
1996; Chang, Rand, & Strunk, 2000; Fimian, Fastenau, Tashner, & Cross, 1989; Gold, Bachelor, &
Michael, 1989; Kim, Lee, Shin, Park, & Lee, 2010; Lee, Lee, & Lee, 2009; Yang, 2004; Yang &
Cheng, 2005).
Similarly, academic burnout is a psychological syndrome resulting from long-term chronic
academic stress and pressure of academic achievement. Academic burnout syndrome is characterized
by feelings of emotional exhaustion, a cynical and detached attitude toward study, and low levels
of achievement (McCarthy, Pretty, & Catano, 1990; Meier & Schmeck, 1985; Schaufeli, Martez,
Marques Pinto, Salanova, & Bakker, 2002). Difficulties with studying in school are likely to lead to
poor grades. Extant research about grades and school adjustment reports that students experiencing
academic stress exhibit a lack of interest in class activities, feelings of depression, multiple absences,
chronic tardiness, and irresponsible behaviors (Thompson, 1987). Burned out students also frequently
act out because of feeling unappreciated by parents and teachers or a lack of feeling a sense of
belonging. It is difficult to keep order in class for these students, and they affect the schools
atmosphere negatively (Kwak, 2006). Oh (1984) reported that academic achievement was related
to academic interest, relationships with teachers, peer relationships, and attitudes toward school. In
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Academic Burnout in Korean Adolescents


addition, Lee (1995) reported that academic stress about university entrance examinations positively
correlated with students depression. Additionally, Kim and Yoo (2010) reported a moderation
effect of social support on the relationship between academic stress and psychological health among
adolescents. Yim (1991) reported that academic stress is related to psychological maladjustment and
students with academic burnout have low academic achievement, low self-efficacy, and trouble with
adjustment. Therefore, academic burnout is an important construct, shown to be related to students
academic self-efficacy, self-esteem, social relationships, and attitudes toward school. Few studies,
however, have specifically explored the academic burnout syndrome in Korean adolescents across



Students from elementary school to middle and high school (i.e., adolescents) experience
physical, social, sexual, and intellectual transitions (Health and Welfare Canada, 1983). In particular, students in these developmental stages undergo severe stress because they experience internal
changes (anatomical, biological, and psychological) while experiencing external changes at their
school or in their peer group (e.g., going from elementary school to middle school; Juon et al.,
1995). That is, students experience more changes and undergo greater stress as age increases (Noh,
1986; Won & Lee, 1987). For example, Kim (2001) reported that high school students experienced
greater stress than middle school students did in the areas of studying, peer relationships, and teacher
relationships. Several studies (Ge et al., 1994; Larson & Ham, 1993; Tepper et al., 2008) reported
that diverse maladaptive psychological symptoms, as well as stress, worsened as grade increased.
Regarding academic burnout, Salmela-Aro, Kiuru, & Nurmi (2008) studied changes in school
burnout (i.e., academic burnout) from comprehensive school to either entering senior high school
or a vocational school in Finland. According to the authors, the transitions across educational
levels are a critical challenge for many European adolescents, with the age of transition fluctuating
considerably across countries. They reported that cynicism and inadequacy of school subscales of
burnout increased during the transfer from comprehensive school to entering senior high school.
Inadequacy decreased from comprehensive school to entering vocational school, whereas cynicism
increased before the school change and decreased thereafter. Park et al. (2010) also reported that
academic burnout of ninth-grade students was higher than that of sixth-grade students when compared
across grades in Korean middle school. In particular, the inefficacy and exhaustion subscales of
academic burnout increased across ages (Park et al., 2010). However, Salmela-Aro and colleagues
(2008) examined the process of school burnout only at certain points (e.g., movement of adolescents
to various types of schools), and Park et al. (2010) studied the process of academic burnout only in
middle school students.
In this vein, we expected that the academic burnout would differ from fourth-grade students in
elementary school to 12th-grade students in high school. Moreover, there are two main shifts from
fourth grade to 12th grade (i.e., shifts from elementary to middle school and from middle to high
school). Previous studies reported that many students had difficulty with low school performance
and maladjustment during these changes (Eccles & Midgley, 1989; Eccles et al., 1993). For example, Simmons and Blyth (1987) reported that many students experienced a decline in academic
achievement during the middle school change, and this decline predicted subsequent school failure
and dropout. Based on the results of previous studies, we expected that the level of academic burnout
would increase noticeably during these times. Therefore, the main purpose of the present study was
to understand age-related differences in the degree of academic burnout in Korean adolescents using
latent means analysis (LMA). The results of this study could help to establish age-related, specific
strategies for prevention and counseling interventions for academic burnout of Korean adolescents.

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Lee et al.

The sample consisted of 1,530 students. The data were collected from two metropolitan regions
of South Korea (Seoul and Gyeonggi). To collect data, researchers contacted the homeroom teachers
of potential participants and explained the purpose and nature of the study individually. Only students
that agreed to participate in this study voluntarily took the survey. The researchers provided small
gifts to students and homeroom teachers to increase the response rate. The final response rate
was 98.8% (males, 47.6 %; females, 52.4%). Participants ranged in age from 11 (fourth graders)
to 19 (12th graders) years. Elementary school students comprised 33.5%, middle school students
comprised 32.1%, and high school students comprised 34.4% of the sample. Among the elementary
school students, 8.3% were fourth graders, 11.0% were fifth graders, and 14.1% were sixth graders.
Among middle school students, 10.9% were seventh graders, 10.5% were eighth graders, and 10.7%
were ninth graders. Among the high school students, 11.5% were 10th graders, 11.2% were 11th
graders, and 11.8% were 12th graders. Approximately 33% of students reported falling from the
top-10 ranking, 34% fell from the 10 to 20 ranking, and 33% fell into the bottom ranking (i.e., 20 to
30) in their respective classes. Most students reported that they lived with their intact family (88.2%),
and 86 students (5.6%) reported that their parents were divorced. Thirty students (2.0%) reported
that one of their parents had died. The researchers used the expectationmaximization algorithm
method to manage all missing data.
Korean Academic Burnout Inventory. The Korean Academic Burnout Inventory (KABI; Lee
et al., 2009) was used to measure academic burnout. Originally, academic burnout was measured using the Maslach Burnout Scale-Student Survey (MBI-SS; Schaufeli, Martez et al., 2002). However,
that scale was developed for university students. Therefore, Salmela-Aro and Naa tanen (2005) developed the School Burnout Inventory (SBI), based on the elementary and secondary school context.
The KABI was also developed for Korean students because the previous inventories of academic
burnout did not accurately reflect the Korean culture. Initially, the KABI consisted of exhaustion,
inefficacy, antipathy, cynicism, and anxiety (Lee et al., 2009). However, Lee (2010) claimed that correlations between the subscales of academic burnout and anxiety were relatively low; thus, anxiety
was excluded from the subscales of academic burnout based on previous studies (Gold & Michael,
1985; Toker, Shirom, Shapira, Berliner, & Melamed, 2005). Therefore, through confirmatory factor
analysis, Lee (2010) compared the three-factor model that consisted of exhaustion, inefficacy, and
cynicism (i.e., the subscales of the MBI-SS); the four-factor model that consisted of exhaustion,
inefficacy, cynicism, and antipathy (i.e., the modified KABI); and the five-factor model that consisted
of exhaustion, inefficacy, antipathy, cynicism, and anxiety (i.e., the original KABI). The four-factor
model was found to be the most appropriate model of the KABI. Compared with the MBI-SS and
the SBI, antipathy was added to the KABI. The result implies that Korean students experienced
higher negative emotions (e.g., feeling stressed about competitive examinations) toward academics,
a result supported in previous studies (Diener et al., 1995; Lee & Larson, 2000).
In addition, reliability and validity were well established and concurrent validity was established
through effortreward ratio (ERR) and demandcontrol ratio (DCR; Lee et al., 2009). That is, the
KABI had a significantly positive correlation with the ERR and DCR, which are known to explain
burnout well (Calnan, Wainwright, & Almond, 2000). Furthermore, in this study, concurrent validity
was also supported because the KABI had a significantly negative correlation (r = .45, p < .05)
with the student version of the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (Schaufeli, Salanova, GonzalezRoma, & Bakker, 2002). Consequently, the KABI consists of 20 items divided into four subscales:
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Academic Burnout in Korean Adolescents


exhaustion (e.g., I feel emotionally drained by my studies), inefficacy (e.g., I believe that I do not
have the capability to study), antipathy (e.g., I dislike studying), and cynicism (e.g., I have become
more cynical about the potential usefulness of my studies). The answers are given on a 5-point
Likert scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). According to Lee et al. (2009),
reliability coefficients for each of the subscale scores are .85 for exhaustion, .89 for inefficacy, .90 for
antipathy, and .83 for cynicism. In the present study, reliability coefficients for each of the subscale
scores are .87 for exhaustion, .94 for inefficacy, .91 for antipathy, and .85 for cynicism.
Academic Demand Inventory. Academic demand refers to a psychological stressor present in
the academic environment, such as excessive homework and time pressure (Lee et al., 2009). The
Academic Demand Inventory (ADI; Lee et al., 2009) was used to measure the degree of academic
demand of students. The ADI was developed to modify work overload items of the Work Conditions
Inventory (Jayaratne & Chess, 1984) for students. The scale consists of five items (e.g., I do have
too many school assignment to be done), and the reliability coefficients of academic inventory
was .85.
The Effort-Reward Inventory. The Effort-Reward Inventory (Siegrist et al., 2004) was used to
measure academic stress of students. It was originally developed for an adult sample, and Lee et al.
(2009) modified it for students. The instrument consists of two subscales termed effort (e.g., I often
feel pressure to spend many hours studying) and reward (e.g., Teachers like me because I do well in
school). This is characterized as the ratio of the effort score to the reward score. Students with a high
ratio had high stress because they did not have enough reward, even though they made great effort.
The scale consists of six items for effort and 11 items for reward, and the reliability coefficients are
.83 for effort and .79 for reward.
Statistical Analyses
Invariance Analyses and Latent Variable Comparisons. To examine measurement invariance
of the KABI across nine groups (i.e., fourth graders to 12th graders) from elementary to middle to
high school, we conducted a series of invariance analyses. Although some researchers have proposed
several different procedures to test for invariance, this study followed the steps of Chen, Sousa, &
West (2005). Based on Chen et al.s recommendations, we tested invariance in factor loadings and
intercepts. Prior to testing for invariance, the model fit for the combined sample (n = 1,530) was
examined, and the factor loading for each group was examined separately, along with the configural
invariance model to establish a baseline. To compare means of latent variables across the nine groups
(i.e., fourth graders to 12th graders), several conditions must be satisfied. Testing for the equality of
means of the latent variable should be conducted if the unit of measurement (i.e., factor loadings)
and origin of the scale (i.e., intercept) are equal between groups (Brown, 2006). Testing intercept
invariance must be conducted after factor loading invariance is satisfied and the equality of the factor
loading matrices across the nine groups (i.e., fourth graders to 12th graders) is established (Cheung
& Rensvold, 2002). Thus, factor loading invariance was conducted first, and a test of intercept
invariance followed.
Given that the assumptions of configural, factor loading, and intercept invariance were satisfied,
the next step was to compare means of latent variables (the four components of academic burnout
in the present study). In evaluating between-group differences with respect to latent constructs, the
use of LMA leads to results that are more sensitive and accurate than those obtained by traditional
statistical techniques (Hong, You, Kim, & Kim, 2008). Specifically, most variables of interest to
psychologists, (e.g., sociotropy, autonomy) are best conceptualized as latent constructs that cannot
be measured directly. Thus, traditional approaches to assessing between-group differences, such as
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a Students t test or multivariate analysis of variance, can give misleading results when applied to
latent variable analysis. This is so because these tests are based on the scores of measured or composite variables (rather than on latent variables or factors), which are subject to measurement error
(Cole, Maxwell, Arvey, & Salas, 1993; Hancock, 1997). In contrast, LMA aims to test assumptions
involving the latent constructs because latent variables are not associated with measurement error
(Hong, Malik, & Lee, 2003). In addition, LMA theoretically should provide a better estimate of the
true mean difference and test the measurement invariance prior to conducting a mean comparison
(Hancock, 1997; Ployhart & Oswald, 2004). In other words, if measurement invariance is not demonstrated, accurate mean comparisons cannot be interpreted because one cannot be sure whether true
mean differences exist in the population or whether these mean differences are the consequences of
the measure being defined differently between the groups. Thus, LMA yields results that are more
Model Identification. Data analysis was conducted with Amos 5.0 (Arbuckle, 2003), using
the covariance matrix with a maximum likelihood estimation procedure. Several parameters were
fixed at 1.0 to conduct latent variable scaling and statistical identification. A single factor loading
(reference indicator) of each factor was set to identify the model and set the metric of the factor.
This is very important in factor invariance tests in which the unstandardized solution is compared
rather than the completely standardized solution. Within this study, 1,1 , 6,2 , 11,3 , and 16,4 were
fixed at 1.0 (see Figure 1).
Model Evaluation Criteria. It is common knowledge that a 2 difference test (i.e., likelihood
ratio test) is employed to compare nested models. However, the 2 test departs from multivariate
normality. In addition, the 2 difference is very sensitive when the model is complex or sample
sizes are large. Hence, the 2 statistics were always very large and statistically significant due to the
complexity of the model and the large sample size used (Chen, 2007; Cheung & Rensvold, 2002;
Marsh & Hocevar, 1985). That is, the 2 statistic is a sensitive statistical test but not a practical
test of model fit (Cheung & Rensvold, 2002). Instead, the change in other fit indexes was examined
because model fit indexes are less sensitive to model complexity. Based on recommendations from
the previous literature (Bentler, 1990; Chen, 2007; Cheung & Rensvold, 2002), we evaluated the
models using the comparative fit index (CFI) incremental fit index (IFI), and root mean square
error of approximation (RMSEA; an absolute fit index across grades). Cheung and Rensvold (2002)
reported that comparison models were considered acceptable when changes of the CFI were .01
and changes of the RMSEA were .015. Alternatively, a change between .01 and .02 for the CFI
was also considered acceptable. The TuckerLewis index (TLI) IFI was also added to compare the
nested model across the nine groups (i.e., fourth graders to 12th graders) in this study. A detailed
description, along with the benefits of each model fit statistics, may be found in extant research (e.g.,
see Cheung & Rensvold, 2002; Vandenberg & Lance, 2000).
The mean and standard deviation of the academic burnout subscales were calculated. The
means (SDs) of inefficacy, antipathy, exhaustion, and cynicism were 11.44 (4.47), 15.53 (5.42),
11.96 (4.91), and 11.31 (4.62), respectively. In addition, the means (SDs) of academic demand and
academic stress were 14.82 (4.92) and 1.10 (.43), respectively. The means and standard deviations
across grades are presented in Table 1.
Next, we assessed the appropriateness of measurements across the different groups (i.e., fourth
graders to 12th graders). The rationale for assessing appropriateness before testing age differences
in latent means of academic burnout is twofold. First, the measurements need to be psychometrically
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FIGURE 1. Path diagram of the modified four-factor model in the combined sample.

sound (Hong et al., 2003). In the present study, confirmatory factor analyses were conducted to
examine the academic burnout inventorys psychometric properties with regard to construct validity.
Second, we examined latent traits or factor scores to see if they were calculated in similar fashion
(Hong et al., 2003). A series of measurement invariance analyses were conducted to confirm that
the latent traits or factors were created in a parallel manner, as well as whether the means of latent
variables were equal. Once assumptions of configural, factor loading, and intercept invariance were
satisfied, we compared means of the latent variables (four components of academic burnout in the
present study).
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Table 1
Mean (SDs) of Korean Academic Burnout Inventory Subscales Across Grade Samples
4th grade 5th grade 6th grade 7th grade 8th grade 9th grade 10th grade 11th grade 12th grade Total











Construct Validity
Using maximum likelihood estimation, the model fit for the combined sample (n = 1,530) was
examined, and the model fit for each group (i.e., fourth graders to 12th graders) was also examined.
In the four-factor model in the total sample (n = 1,530), the CFI (.89) and the TLI (.87) indicated an
unsatisfactory fit, whereas the RMSEA (.03) indicated an acceptable score according to the criteria
established by Bentler (1992). Bentler recommended selecting goodness of fit indexes with a cutoff
value of .90 for the CFI and TLI, as well as .06 for the RMSEA.
In previous studies (Hu & Schaufeli, 2009; Lee, 2010; Schaufeli, Martez et al., 2002), the
inventories that measure academic burnout, including the KABI, were found to include some items
that asked basically the same question. Thus, several researchers (Lee et al., 2009; Leiter & Durup,
1994) recommended the use of item parceling or model identification (MI) methods to modify the
measurement model. Item parceling is known to be useful for obtaining a better model fit than model
fit at the item level. However, item parceling must reduce the number of data points to improve fit,
thus not producing results as rigorous as analyses based on the individual items, disguising the true
nature of the measurement model (Bandalos, 2002; Hall, Snell, & Foust, 1999). Therefore, we used
the MI method to identify similar, overlapping items (Bentler & Chou, 1987; Byrne, Shavelson,
& Muthen, 1989; Joreskog & Sorbom, 1993). Examination showed that the MI was more than
50 between items 1 and 5, items 9 and 10, items 17 and 18, and items 19 and 20. These items
seem to have common characteristics and similar content. For example, Item 19 (I doubt that my
studies will be helpful for my future) and Item 20 (I doubt that my studies are significant) were
highly correlated (r = .65), and their correlations with other items were almost equal to each other,
suggesting obvious similarity between the two items content. Thus, based on the previous research
(Bentler & Chou, 1987; Byrne, 2010; Joreskog & Sorbom, 1993), within factor error-covariance
between items 1 and 5, items 9 and 10, items 17 and 18, and items 19 and 20 was included and the
measurement model modified accordingly.
As shown in Table 2, the results indicated that the modified four-factor model was a better
fit than was the original four-factor model,  2 (36) = 685.8, p < .001. In addition, as shown in
Figure 1, the factor loading of the modified four-factor model was very similar and was more than
.50. Therefore, the modified four-factor model fits well in the combined samples.
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Table 2
Model Fit Statistics Across Grade Samples
Configural* (Combined Samples)
Configural (Combined Samples)
Factor Loadings Invariance
Full-Factor Intercept Invariance
Partial Intercept Invariance#





1,440 685.8*** 36
1,568 206.2*** 128
1,728 1,201.0*** 160
1,692 514.0*** 124






.035 .914
.922 .006 .917
.867 .057 .869 .048
.903 .019 .901 .016

Note. Configural* indicates the original four-factor model. Configural indicates the modified four-factor model. Constrained
parameter was relaxed in four items (1, 5, 11, 12).
***p < .001.

When examining the goodness of fit for the modified four-factor model across the nine different
groups (i.e., fourth graders to 12th graders), an appropriate model fit was obtained for all nine groups
(RMSEA ranging from .05 to .07; CFI ranging from .90 to .95; TLI ranging from .90 to .94). In
addition, the factor loading of the modified four-factor model was relatively equal across the nine
groups (see Table 3). The factor loading results for the modified four-factor model are discussed in
detail in the following Test of Invariance section.
Test of Invariance
We conducted tests for configural invariance in the modified four-factor model before conducting factor loading and intercept invariance tests across the nine groups. The configural invariance
indicated good fit statistics (see Table 3). This implies that similar subsets of items were correlated
with similar constructs across the nine groups. Thus, the configural model can serve as a baseline
model for comparison with other restricted models. Next, we conducted tests for factor loading (i.e.,
metric) invariance. The results revealed that the 2 value changed significantly across the nine groups.
However, we must consider absolute and incremental fit indices because the 2 value depends on
sample size. As shown in Table 3, the results showed that RMSEA (.001), CFI (.006), and
TLI (.003) in the factor loading invariance model revealed appropriate fit statistics. This implies
that the factor loadings are equal across grade groups.
After the factor loading invariance test, an intercept (i.e., scalar) invariance test was conducted.
The  2 was statistically significant and  RMSEA (.007),  CFI (.057), and  TLI (.048)
were significant, as illustrated in Table 3. This implies that intercept invariance may not be equal
across grade groups. However, Byrne et al. (1989) argued that if at least two items per latent
variable are equivalent, holding complete intercept invariance across groups was too strict and
unrealistic in practice. Vandenberg and Lance (2000) also argued that partial intercept invariance
could be produced when a subset of parameters but not all of the parameters are invariant across
groups. Byrne et al. (1989) argued that intercept invariance values proposed by Chen (2007) are
only recommendations and should be interpreted with some caution. Follow-up analyses found
that four items (1, 5, 11, 12) had the largest effect on the model fit. Therefore, a partial intercept
invariance model based on several researchers recommendation (Byrne et al., 1989; Hong et al.,
2003; Steenkamp & Baumgartner, 1998) was tested to get a better model. That is, the constrained
parameter was relaxed in the four items (1, 5, 11, 12) and, as shown in Table 3, this resulted in
acceptable changes in RMSEA (.003), CFI (.019), and  TLI (.016) statistics based on
Cheung and Rensvolds (2002) recommendation. In general, the relatively small changes in absolute
and incremental fit indices for partial invariant models imply that a comparison of mean differences
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Table 3
Factor Loading Values Across Grade Samples



I do not think I am very competent in my chosen area of study.

I feel the other students are better than me.
I cannot get a higher GPA no matter how hard I study.
I have always been disappointed with myself in terms of
academic achievement.
I feel overwhelmed because my grades are not good even
though I study.
Antipathy I dislike the world where study is important.
I would like to live in the world where there is no study.
I hate the world where there is nothing but study.
I dislike studying.
I feel frustrated with so much school work.
Exhaustion I feel burned out. I do not want to study anymore.
I feel emotionally drained by my studies.
I feel exhausted when I come back home after school.
I feel so stressed with all the studying I have to do.
I feel depressed when I get up in the morning and remember
that I have to go to school.
Cynicism I doubt that my studies will be helpful for my future.
I doubt that my studies are significant.
I have been less interested in my studies since getting into
I feel less enthusiastic about my studies.
I believe that I cannot get a high score even though I study so

4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th






.57 .73 .75 .48 .58 .71 .60







.53 .74 .65 .83 .74 .77 .59

.75 .72 .79 .75 .64 .73 .76
.50 .80 .84 .76 .70 .76 .67



.34 .73 .79 .55 .47 .63 .61

.67 .73 .86 .59 .47 .74 .66












Note. GPA = grade point average.

for the latent variables (the four components of academic burnout in the present study) would be
Mean Differences of Latent Variables
Mean comparisons of latent variables were conducted because the factor loadings and intercepts
were relatively invariant across the nine groups. As shown in Table 4, the results revealed a latent
mean difference was significant in only one subscale (i.e., inefficacy) of academic burnout between
the fourth-grade group (reference group) and the fifth-grade group. However, latent mean differences
were statistically significant in all four subscales (exhaustion, antipathy, cynicism, and inefficacy) of
academic burnout between the fourth-grade group (reference group) and the other grade groups (i.e.,
sixth graders to 12th graders). The results for male students were similar to those of female students.
Specifically, as shown in Table 5, latent mean differences of females were statistically significant in
all subscales of academic burnout between sixth graders through 12th graders. However, males had
statistically significant differences in all subscales of academic burnout, beginning in seventh grade,
that is, academic burnout of females showed drastic changes earlier than males.
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Table 4
Estimated Latent Mean Difference of Korean Academic Burnout Inventory Subscales Across Grade Samples
4th grade 5th grade 6th grade 7th grade 8th grade 9th grade 10th grade 11th grade 12thgrade

Cohens d
Antipathy MDiff
Cohens d
Exhaustion MDiff
Cohens d
Cynicism MDiff
Cohens d










Note. Reference group is 4th grade.

*p < .05. ***p < .001.

Table 5
Estimated Latent Mean Difference of Korea Academic Burnout Inventory Subscales Across Grade and Gender









Cohens d
Cohens d
Cohens d
Cohens d
Cohens d
Cohens d
Cohens d
Cohens d



















Note. Reference group is 4th grade.

*p < .05. ***p < .001.

Cohens d for the mean differences across the nine groups was also calculated. As shown in
Figure 2, all four subscales (exhaustion, antipathy, cynicism, and inefficacy) of academic burnout
increased gradually across age. Specifically, the inefficacy level increased greatly in fifth grade,
and cynicism, antipathy, and exhaustion levels increased greatly from sixth grade to eighth grade.
Inefficacy also increased again from the eighth grade. Then, exhaustion and cynicism levels increased
in ninth grade and 10th grade. More specifically, for the subscales of academic burnout, inefficacy
increased in fifth grade, seventh grade and ninth grade. That is, inefficacy increased periodically.
Like inefficacy, exhaustion increased during grade change periods (i.e., sixth grade, ninth grade). In
other words, antipathy and cynicism increased drastically before ninth grade, whereas other periods
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Lee et al.

FIGURE 2. Change in effect size for Korea Academic Burnout Inventory subscales across grade samples. Horizontal axis
indicates that grade was compared with fourth grade (reference group). Vertical axis indicates Cohens d (effect size).

remained relatively constant. The results showed somewhat different patterns when analyzed by
gender. Whereas academic burnout of females showed a more dramatic increase than that of males
from sixth grade to eighth grade, academic burnout of males showed a more drastic increase than
that of females in 11th grade.
The purpose of the present study was to compare changes in academic burnout across ages
for Korean students. To this end, this study examined the mean differences of latent variables (i.e.,
inefficacy, cynicism, antipathy, exhaustion) across nine groups (i.e., fourth graders to 12th graders).
We conducted mean difference tests of latent variables because several prerequisites were satisfied.
First, the concurrent validity of the KABI has been well established (Lee et al., 2009). Specifically,
the modified model of the KABI showed the most appropriate model fit when a within factor errorcovariance for pairs of items (i.e., 1 and 5, 9 and 10, 17 and 18, 19, and 20) was included. The
modified four-factor structure of the KABI was supported not only in the combined sample but also
in all nine different groups. In addition, factor loadings were relatively equal across the nine groups
in the modified model. Second, the measurement equivalence across the nine groups was verified
relatively well. That is, configural invariance and factor loading invariance were equal, whereas
intercept invariance provided unequal results across the nine groups. However, the partial intercept
invariance was conducted based on several researchers recommendations (Bryne et al., 1989; Hong
et al., 2003; Steenkamp & Baumgartner, 1998). The partial intercept invariance that relaxed four
items of the scale (1, 5, 11, 12) supported measurement equivalence, and this led to conducting the
comparison of latent means.
The result of the LMA showed that all four subscales (exhaustion, antipathy, cynicism, and
inefficacy) of academic burnout increased gradually as age increased. This is consistent with a
previous study that reported ninth-grade middle school students had more academic burnout than
did seventh-grade middle school students (Kim et al., 2010). Additionally, similar to reports by
Salmela-Aro et al. (2008), the present study confirmed that the levels of cynicism and inadequacy
at school increased as students experiences in school increased. Furthermore, inefficacy scores
increased first in the fifth grade, and the scores of cynicism, antipathy, and exhaustion increased
from sixth grade to eighth grade. Inefficacy and exhaustion scores increased again from ninth grade
to the 10th grade, whereas cynicism, antipathy, and exhaustion levels were relatively constant.
This indicates that academic burnout changes more drastically before and after grade changes in
academic progression (i.e., move to upper grades from elementary school and to high school from
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Academic Burnout in Korean Adolescents


middle school) due perhaps to increased academic demands or subject matter difficulty. It appears
that academic burnout is greater for Korean students at higher grades than lower grades as college
entrance gets closer and competition increases. Salmela-Aro and colleagues (2008) also reported
that cynicism and inadequacy scores of academic burnout changed for students as they moved
from lower to higher grades. In addition, females showed a drastic increase earlier than males did
on three subscales of academic burnout, but not for inefficacy. This suggests the possibility that
females experience burnout earlier than males. This result seems to be related to previous studies
that indicated female students experience higher academic stress and burnout than do male students
(Matud, 2004; Salmela-Aro et al., 2008).
Close examination of these results reveals that Korean children and adolescents are progressively vulnerable to academic burnout, with peak levels of inefficacy and exhaustion from ninth to
10th grade. This period of time is marked by intense preparation for entrance examinations into
prestigious universities in Korea. Three elite schools (i.e., Seoul National, Korea, and Yonsei Universities) in Korea have rigorous and intensely competitive examinations. Considered the Korean
Ivy League schools, most students work feverishly to gain admission; those who fail attempt to be
admitted to universities in the United States. Results of the present study support this trend, as Korean
students appear to become increasingly burned out as they progress through the educational system.
This has important implications for those who support Korean students academic development and
Although this study contributes to the literature on academic burnout, several limitations should
be noted. The study examined the changes in academic burnout from fourth grade in elementary
school to 12th grade in high school. However, this was not a longitudinal study, so no causal
inferences between age and academic burnout may be drawn; that is, we cannot confirm whether
academic burnout is increasing over the course of time. Therefore, future research on this topic
should include longitudinal studies that explore academic burnout for various groups of students and
track results of developmental interventions on students academic burnout, academic performance,
middle and high school placements, and college admission rates.
In addition, respondents participated voluntarily and answered questions anonymously. Despite
anonymity, participants may respond in socially desirable ways. For example, students who experience high level of academic burnout may report low levels of burnout symptoms because they want
to deny or minimize their symptoms or present to others in a more desirable state. Therefore, future
studies should also consider including objective biological indicators of burnout and stress to help
offset the use of self-report instruments, which are biased toward social desirability. For example,
blood pressure and cortisol levels could be obtained and integrated into the analyses of results.
Implications and Recommendations for Practice and Future Research
This study has several important implications for changing the extent and severity of academic
burnout across ages and grade levels. Findings from this study provide insight into the relationships
among age, grade level, and academic burnout. Age appears to be an important variable in anticipating academic burnout. Teachers and administrators need to attend to these students potential
for increased stress and the impacts of this pressure on not only their performance, but perhaps,
more importantly, their well-being. Students who begin to buckle under academic pressure deserve
increased opportunities to receive support. Interventions aimed at prevention should be developed
and delivered in Korean elementary, middle, and high schools.
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Lee et al.

Additionally, future studies on academic burnout need to consider students ages. Although
this study was cross-sectional, it highlights the importance of students progression from elementary
to middle to high school grades. Korean students appear to experience greater and more severe
academic burnout as they progress to higher grades. This implies that more interventions may need
to take place as students move from lower grades to higher grades. Specifically, results from this
study can help school professionals (e.g., teachers, counselors) gauge when students are feeling
exhaustion, cynicism, antipathy, and inefficacy at each level. Future studies may provide additional
data regarding the timing and focus of specific interventions.
School professionals may need to make plans to decrease academic burnout as students move
forward in their studies. For example, counselors can provide students with additional support
and parents can arrange for students to receive special tutoring to improve their academic efficacy
as they reach the middle and high school levels. In addition, students wrestling with cynicism
or antipathy may benefit from individualized counseling interventions to explore their lack of
motivation and dislike for school. Additionally, the emergence of mindfulness practices in education
may provide empirically supported stress reduction strategies for students (see Schonert-Reichl
& Lawlor, 2010). Schonert-Reichl and Lawlors (2010) quasi-experimental study evaluated the
efficacy of the Mindfulness in Education (ME) program as a prevention strategy to improve social
and emotional competence in pre-adolescent and early adolescent students. The ME program, taught
by teachers, resulted in students greatly improved sense of competence and optimism. The Korean
school system may benefit from exploring the implementation of such programs in its schools.
Finally, it is worth noting the impact of the larger social issue of pressure for academic success
and excellence. Pellissier (2010) stated it best:
The system takes a profound emotional toll. . . . South Koreas student suicide rate is among the
worlds highest, with 17 out of 100,000 students killing themselvessometimes after a poor performance on entrance examinations or because children cannot endure their parents disappointment.
One 2008 poll indicated that 58.8% of students contemplate suicide.

School and government officials, parents, and students would benefit from a realistic assessment
of the results of these pressures on the mental health of its future adult citizens, especially in light
of the increased reports of student suicides related to university entrance examination testing.
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