Conservation of resources theory (COR) is a well-established theory in psychology that explains how individuals strive to protect and build resources in order to manage stress, cope with adversity, and promote well-being. COR theory asserts that individuals seek to conserve, protect, and build resources in three domains: personal resources, social resources, and structural resources. Personal resources refer to an individual's internal characteristics, such as skills, knowledge, and self-esteem. Social resources refer to external resources that come from social networks, such as social support, mentoring, and positive relationships. Structural resources refer to tangible resources that an individual has access to, such as financial resources, equipment, and facilities.
The core assumption of the COR theory is that individuals are motivated to maintain and improve their resources because of the instrumental and intrinsic value of these resources. Individuals who lack resources or lose resources may experience stress, burnout, and negative health outcomes. Therefore, individuals strive to manage stress by protecting and building resources. COR theory suggests that the loss of resources is more stressful than the gain of resources, which implies that individuals may be more motivated to prevent resource loss than to acquire new resources.
COR theory has been widely applied in various domains, including occupational stress, burnout, health, and well-being. In occupational stress, COR theory has been used to explain how individuals experience stress and burnout when they perceive a lack of resources, such as control, support, and rewards, in the workplace. Individuals may experience burnout when they are unable to protect and build personal and social resources, leading to feelings of exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy. In health, COR theory has been applied to explain how individuals protect and build health-related resources, such as physical activity, healthy diets, and social support, to prevent and cope with health problems.
One of the strengths of COR theory is that it provides a comprehensive framework for understanding stress and coping processes across different domains. The theory integrates individual, social, and environmental factors that influence resource availability and resource management. Another strength of COR theory is that it has practical implications for interventions and prevention programs. COR theory suggests that interventions that promote resource building and resource protection may improve well-being and prevent stress and burnout.
However, there are also some limitations of COR theory. One limitation is that it may not fully account for cultural and individual differences in resource management. For example, some cultures may place more emphasis on social resources than on personal resources. Additionally, some individuals may have different goals and values regarding resource management. Another limitation is that COR theory does not address the potential negative consequences of resource accumulation, such as resource hoarding, resource depletion, and resource conflict.
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