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Marital Status and Police Occupational Stress

NCJ Number
Journal of Crime & Justice Volume: 26 Issue: 2 Dated: 2003 Pages: 23-46
Jihong S. Zhao; Ni 'Phil' He; Nicholas Lovrich; Jeffrey Cancino
Date Published
24 pages
This study examined whether marital status has an impact on police occupational stress.
Police occupational stress is a topic that has garnered much research and speculation. Over the past few decades several key stress-inducing factors have been identified in an effort to reduce police officer stress. Some of these stress-inducing factors include the inherent dangers of police work and the structural and organizational features of police hierarchy. Another factor that has been suspected to impact police officer stress is marital status, although this factor has been much less studied. In order to probe whether marital status actually has an impact on police officer stress, the authors analyzed a dataset derived from the Inter-university Consortium for Police and Social Research’s Web site. The data were gathered through a self-administered survey of 1,100 sworn police officers from 9 Baltimore police precincts and from the Baltimore police headquarters. The questionnaire probed issues regarding symptoms of psychological and physical stress; perceived level of current stress; coping strategies; and health outcomes experienced over the past year. For the current analysis, three groups of police officers were identified: police couple, non-police couple, and other. Results of multivariate analyses suggest that police couples experience lower levels of anxiety, while non-police couples experience lower levels of depression. However, the importance of marital status on stress, when compared with other variables, was quite low. More significant indicators of police officer stress included destructive coping, work-family conflict, and negative work exposure. The variable most protective against stress was camaraderie. Another interesting finding was noted; there appeared to be gender differences regarding police officer stress. Female officers experienced more depression and somatization than did their male counterparts. Limitations of the research include problems with generalization and a lack of a measure for strength or quality of relationship. Tables, references