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Abstract

The existence of occupational and specifically psychological occupational stress of early childhood education (ECE) professionals is well established. However, little qualitative research has been published describing the lived experience of psychological occupational stress in this setting. The aim of this study was to provide a deeper understanding of ECE professionals’ stress to better support their occupational health. This was accomplished through a secondary phenomenological analysis of interviews with ECE teachers (n=4) collected by the primary author for a larger study of professional development in ECE leadership. The researchers found that the essential description of psychological occupational stress for these ECE teachers was one of powerlessness, supported by themes of inescapable responsibility and being devalued. The results of this study suggest that power should be treated as a job resource necessary for meeting the demands required by the position of ECE teacher, and teacher-leader empowerment should be a priority when designing ECE programs.

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