U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Law Enforcement and Corrections Family Support: Development and Evaluation of a Stress Management Program for Officers and Their Spouses, Executive Summary

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2002
12 pages
Publication Series
This report summarizes the development and evaluation of a program that provided an innovative stress prevention and treatment program for police officers and their families.
The 8-week program consisted of three components: didactic group presentations, processing/treatment groups, and ongoing support groups led by peer mentors. An experimental design was used to test the program's effectiveness. The evaluation design included randomized selection of participants, random assignment to the experimental or control group, and pretest/posttest follow-up assessment. The experimental group attended the 8-week didactic/treatment groups, and a smaller sample of officers and their significant others attended the peer mentoring support groups. The experimental group consisted of 19 participants. Questionnaires were provided to both experimental and control group participants prior to the beginning of treatment, at completion, and again at 6-month follow-up. Objective baseline data (e.g., sick leave, emergency leave, family sick leave, and work performance evaluations) were collected from departmental records prior to the treatment and at the end of the year following completion of the program. A total of 32 officers responded to the qualitative survey, with 4 from the experimental group, 12 from the control group, and 16 from the nonparticipating/control group. Most officers, regardless of their group, agreed that having a police family stress program was a "good idea." In the initial qualitative survey, the police officers were split as to the origin of their stress. Two sub-themes emerged from follow-up phone interviews (job-related stress and other stressors). Half of the participants stated that their stress was directly related to their role as a police officer. Other officers indicated that family relationships and financial issues were the main sources of their stress. Program participants identified the group process as the most helpful factor in the couple groups, notably, the ability of the facilitators to create an open and comfortable atmosphere. Program participants indicated they would have appreciated more ownership of the curriculum. The peer-mentoring group was viewed by most as a positive experience, but they wished for more structure and guidance regarding the topics covered. Participants identified the following factors as contributing to their decision to participate in the training: learning how to handle stress and understanding their spouse. Participants viewed other officers as having a generally negative perception of program participation, based in fear of being stereotyped for participation in the program and fear about confidentiality.

Date Published: November 1, 2002