Although the phenomenon of staff burn-out represents a significant problem for the effective administration and functioning of social service settings, there has been a general paucity of empirically based research on this issue. The staggering financial, personal and social costs associated with staff burn-out emphasize the fact that we can no longer accept the sole use of descriptive and correlational studies of the problem. This paper suggests refocusing our theoretical perspective of the problem of staff burn-out from an emphasis on the dispositional qualities of burnedout staff members, to examining the social and situational contingencies of reinforcement responsible for the acquisition and maintenance of burnout. In addition, this paper discusses the application of experimental methodologies designed to identify causative factors and evaluate interventive procedures. It is believed that this approach will facilitate our understanding of the causes of burn-out and assist in developing effective interventive procedures.

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