Burnout, work, stress of conscience and coping among female and male patrolling police officers

Detta är en avhandling från Umeå : Umeå universitet

Sammanfattning: Background. Police work is a stressful occupation with frequent exposure to traumatic events and psychological strain from work might increase the risk of burnout. This thesis focuses on patrolling police officers (PPO), who work most of their time in the community and have daily contact with the public. Since police work traditionally is a male coded occupation we assume that there are differences between women and men in burnout as well as experiences from psychosocial work environment.Aim. The overall aim of this thesis is to explore burnout, psychosocial and physical work environment, coping strategies, and stress of conscience when taking gender into consideration among patrolling police officers.Methods. This thesis employs both qualitative and quantitative methods. In Paper I a qualitative approach with narrative interviews was used where male PPO described experiences of traumatic situations when caring for victims of traffic accidents. A convenience sample of nine male PPO from a mid-sized police authority was recruited. Interviews were analyzed using qualitative content analysis. Papers II, III, and IV were based on a cross-sectional survey from a randomly selected sample stratified for gender from all 21 local police authorities in Sweden. In the final sample, 1554 PPOs were invited (778 women, 776 men), response rate was 55% (n=856) in total, 56% for women (n=437) and 53% for men (n=419). The survey included a self-administered questionnaire based on instruments measuring burnout, stress of conscience, psychosocial and physical work environment, and coping.Results. Findings from Paper I were presented in three themes; “being secure with the support system,” “being confident about prior successful actions,” and “being burdened with uncertainty.” Results from Paper II showed high levels of emotional exhaustion (EE), 30% for female PPOs and 26% for male PPOs. High levels of depersonalization (DP) were reported for 52 % of female PPO, corresponding proportions for male were 60%. Multiple logistic regression showed that stress of conscience (SCQ-A), high demand, and organizational climate increased the risk of EE for female PPO. For male PPO stress of conscience (SCQ-A), low control and high demand increased the risk of EE. Independent of gender, stress of conscience (SCQ-A) increased the risk of DP. Psychometric properties of the WOCQ were investigated with exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analysis, a six-factor solution was confirmed. DIF analysis was detected for a third of the items in relation to gender. In Paper IV a block wise hierarchical multiple regression analysis was performed investigating the predictive impact of psychological demand, decision latitude, social support, coping strategies, and stress of conscience on EE as well as DP. Findings revealed that, regardless of gender, risk of EE and DP increased with a troubled conscience amongst the PPO.Conclusion. “Being burdened with uncertainty” in this male-dominated context indicate that the PPO did not feel confident talking about traumatic situations, which might influence their coping strategies when arriving to a similar situation. This finding can be related to Paper II and IV showing that stress of conscience increased the risk of both EE and DP. The associations between troubled conscience and the risk of experiencing both emotional exhaustion and depersonalization indicate that stress of conscience should be considered when studying the influence of the psychosocial work environment on burnout. Results from this study show that the psychosocial work environment is not satisfying and needs improvement for patrolling police officers in Sweden. Further studies including both qualitative and quantitative (longitudinal) methods should be used to improve knowledge in this area to increase conditions for preventive and rehabilitative actions.

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