The Job Content Questionnaire (JCQ) 

© Copyright by Robert Karasek/JCQ Center

The Job Content Questionnaire(JCQ) is a questionnaire-based instrument designed to measure the "content" of a respondent's work tasks in a general manner which is applicable to all jobs and jobholders in the U.S. The best-known scales--(a) decision latitude, (b) psychological demands, and (c) social support--are used to measure the high-demand/low-control/low-support model of job strain development. The demand/control model predicts, first, stress-related risk and, second, active-passive behavioral correlates of jobs. Other aspects of work demands are assessed as well: (d) physical demands and (e) job insecurity. The instrument has a recommended length of 49 questions. No personality scales or measures of non-job stressors are included; two areas in which the user may want to supplement our instrument.

All scales can be used for microlevel, job characteristic analytic purposes, such as assessing the relative risks of individuals' exposures to different work settings to predict job-related illness development, psychological distress, coronary heart disease, musculoskeletal disease, and reproductive disorders. The scales also allow testing of hypotheses about activation, worker motivation, job satisfaction, absenteeism, and labor turnover and have been used for such studies. The conceptual framework underlying the JCQ allows its application in social policy as a measure of work quality, in addition to the more commonly assessed work quantity issues: wages, hours, and benefits. Broader economic development issues of skill utilization as well as social costs of market-based economic development are beginning to be addressed using the instrument.

The design of the new JCQ instrument in 1984 focused on a very short, efficient questionnaire which could be self-administered in fifteen minutes, with minimal subject guidance. The JCQ was originally constructed for the Framingham Offspring Study developed for the US NHLBI survey and the instrument authors were well aware of the limitations posed by research teams in nation survey designs and of other researchers adopting question sets not of their own design- thus instrument length was a major design criteria.

Most of the scales have nationally standardizable scores, allowing users involved in small population or single plant studies to compare their findings to national averages on the scales (broken down by sex and occupation/industry). The nationally standardizability is due to the fact that a "core" of the questions replicate the U.S. Department of Labor's National Quality of Employment Survey of 1969, 1972, and 1977 (administered by the University of Michigan. These in turn have statistically adjusted in our research to allow combining the three surveys, n=4,500 total for our reference base). Another advantage of the instrument is that its scales are also used in our data base linkage system (using job title) through which job content scores can be associated with health and productivity outcomes in national or company data bases already in existence (such as U.S. Census, Commerce or NCHS data). This assures the continued validation of the instrument's scales in predicting a broad range of outcome variables.

Furthermore, we have designed this questionnaire as the "Reference Base" of a two part "umbrella" strategy for collecting job data. The users are encouraged to develop the second part themselves: More situation-specific supplementary scales ("under the Job Content Scale umbrella") to measure the detailed problems that are important in the surveyed work site. These new scales can then be correlated to our nationally standardized scales.

The JCQ has been translated into over 22 languages. An active users' group supports usage of the JCQ, and an international board of researchers decides on policy and development issues.