Abstract Thermal degradation and stabilization of poly(2,6-dimethyl-1,4-phenylene oxide) have been examined in air in the range 100–400°. Plots of weight-average molecular weight vs time are linear, confirming random chain scission. The breakdown process has also been studied by DTA and TGA. It was concluded that thermal analysis alone was insufficient to characterize the degradation fully so the degradation products were determined qualitatively using i.r. and NMR spectroscopy. The heats of activation for the systems have been calculated and a stabilization mechanism by bis(1-phenyl-3-α-pyridyl triazeno)Cu(II) chelate has been postulated.