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Exploring the Utility of General Strain Theory in Explaining Problematic Alcohol Consumption by Police Officers

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 35 Issue: 6 Dated: December 2007 Pages: 596-611
Marc L. Swatt; Chris L. Gibson; Nicole Leeper Piquero
Date Published
December 2007
16 pages
Drawing upon general strain theory, this study explored the relationship between police officer stress and problematic alcohol use.
Consistent with theoretical expectations, regression analyses showed that the relationship between work-related strain and drinking prevalence and problematic alcohol consumption was mediated through anxiety/depression. Future replication research is recommended and needed to determine if these results are sample specific or apply to other adult populations. Research has shown a link between police officer stress and negative coping strategies, particularly alcohol consumption. Unfortunately, most research on this topic has not been theoretically informed. Agnew’s general strain theory (GST) offers a potential theoretical explanation for this relationship. The purpose of this study was two-fold. First, whether GST could explain drinking prevalence and problematic alcohol consumption among police officers was examined. Second, the generalizability of GST to a sample of police officers was examined. Using data collected from a large sample of Baltimore, MD police officers, support for GST was found. Tables, appendix, notes and references