Perceived Stress of Special Education Teachers in the Context of the Person-Environment Relationship

Olufemi T. Adigun1, *, Faizat A. Tijani2, Dumisani R. Nzima1, Raveenthiran Vivekanantharasa3
1 Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education, University of Zululand, KwaDlangezwa, South Africa
2 Oakwood Montessori School, Surulere, Lagos, Nigeria
3 Department of Secondary and Tertiary Education, Faculty of Education, The Open University of Sri Lanka, Colombo, Sri Lanka

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© 2021 Adigun et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education, University of Zululand, KwaDlangezwa, South Africa; Tel: 0788396897; E-mail:



The teachers of learners with special needs are confronted with higher demands, enormous challenges and low reward or motivation. Hence, stress among the teachers is inevitable with a resultant effect on behavioural and learning outcomes of learners with special needs. Unfortunately, factors that contribute to perceived stress among teachers of learners with special needs, particularly in Southwest Nigeria, are yet to be established.


To establish the relationship of some personal and environment-related factors as determinants of stress among teachers of learners with special needs.


A total of 118 participants were randomly selected from special schools in South west Nigeria. A descriptive survey of both a quantitative and qualitative research design was adopted. Based on the person-environment fit theory, four research questions were raised and answered. A structured questionnaire and semi-structured interview were used for data collection. Quantitative data were analysed with descriptive statistics and inferential statistics at a 0.05 level of significance, while qualitative data were thematically analysed.


The study found a significant positive relationship between the student-teacher relationship and perceived stress and an inverse relationship of work experience and work motivation with perceived stress among the participants. An unfavourable working environment and lack of motivation were identified by the participants as major sources of stress.


The study concluded that work environment-related factors triggered stress among teachers of learners with special needs.

Keywords: Perceived stress, Teachers of learners with special needs, Work motivation, Student-teacher relationship, Work experience, Educational attainment.