An exploration of the experience of stress in the Police service

PhD Thesis

Gibbes, Carla L 2009. An exploration of the experience of stress in the Police service. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsGibbes, Carla L
TypePhD Thesis

Policing is often characterised by highly stressful situations that are outside the experience of the general public (Violanti, 1999). In spite of this only a few studies
have gone beyond identifying and categorising likely stressors as well asking police officers themselves how they view and experience stress. The present research set out to explore the subjective experiences of and preferred modes of managing stress as reported by police officers and some of their spouses. Adopting a mixed methodological approach, three empirical investigations were conducted. The first study reported findings emerging from a survey questionnaire, while the second and third studies entailed Interpretative Phenomenological Analyses of narrative,
interview based data. The quantitative study comprised two distinct phases: a pilot followed by a large scale postal questionnaire, both surveying psychological outcomes of anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and coping behaviours of 45 and 168 police officers respectively. Analysis of variance for differences on
anxiety and depression as a function of rank and gender produced non-significant results across two the phases. Hierarchical log linear however showed different patterns of morbidity for gender in the prevalence of PTSD. Interpretative phenomenological analysis of the interview transcripts with six police officers revealed themes relating to "stress in an experience to be denied; the emotional rules of display how stress is managed; and managing the professional self" as important dimensions of stress and managing stress experiences. The analysis of six officer spouses' accounts about their own stress experiences identified three prevalent themes; namely, "living with an intransient organisation; feelings of exclusion; and living with a non-communicative partner". Collectively these two sets of themes showed the experience of stress for these police officers was multi-dimensional in that two conversational voices (that of a professional police officer, and as a private individual) emerged. Influenced by the role of the officer in both worlds,
organisational norms in their professional world and quality of relationships in their private world, the findings of this thesis are discussed in terms of the
interconnectedness between the public and private worlds of the officer and how this shapes their contextualisation, experience and management of stress.

KeywordsManagement of stress; Policing; Police officer spouses
Publication dates
PrintJul 2009
Publication process dates
Deposited28 Oct 2013
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