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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.3/93565
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- An exploration of secondary trauma effects in members of the Victoria Police Force
- Wheeler, Susan
- The purpose of the current study was to thoroughly examine the phenomenon of secondary traumatic stress (STS). STS is said to mirror the symptomatology of PTSD, such as intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and avoidance, and develops in professionals who assist and counsel the traumatised (Figley, 1995a). Prominent risk factors for the development of STS are said to include having one’s own prior trauma history, dealing with victims of sexual abuse and working with traumatized children (Beaton & Murphy, 1995; Cunningham, 2003; Figley, 1995a), with the necessary conduit for STS development being empathic concern (Figley, 1995a). The current study investigated if secondary trauma could be determined in Victoria Police members and particularly in police officers working in sexual offences and child abuse units (SOCAU). Participants were 210 police officers (135 men and 75 women) with ages ranging from 20 to 55 years (men M = 41.5 years, SD = 6.9; women, M = 36.8, SD = 7.04). The current results revealed that there was strong convergence between scores on the Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale (STSS; Bride, Robinson, Yegidis & Figley, 2004) and scores on the measure of Emotional Exhaustion (a subscale within the Maslach Burnout Inventory; Maslach & Jackson, 1986). Furthermore, none of the main theoretical antecedents (proposed by Figley, 1995a) predicted the development of STS and multiple regressions revealed that the same five variables (Alcohol Use, less Emotional Stability, lack of Social Support, Denial, and Turnover Intent) predicted both STS and Emotional Exhaustion to the same degree (accounting for 51% of the variance in each construct). The predictors themselves are not trauma specific, and have been studied extensively in the burnout literature. The prevalence of Prior Trauma in police officers was not different from what could be expected in other populations and SOCAU did not appear to be a location that was especially risky for the development of Emotional Exhaustion, STS or PTSD when compared to other police work areas. In addition, qualitative responses indicated that administration issues, a lack of resources, internal politics and management issues were more concerning to police than victim stress. A re-evaluation of the definition and contributing factors to STS seems warranted, given the mounting research suggesting an overlap between burnout and STS. Future studies concerned with the possible psychological impact of working with trauma victims should incorporate organisational variables, in order to more comprehensively examine the phenomenon.
- Publication type
- Thesis (DPsych)
- Research centre
- Swinburne University of Technology. Faculty of Life and Social Sciences
- Publication year
- Australasian Digital Theses collection
- Copyright © 2010 Susan Wheeler.