U.S. flag

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

Stress Patterns in Police Work - A Longitudinal Study

NCJ Number
Journal of Police Science and Administration Volume: 11 Issue: 2 Dated: (June 1983) Pages: 211-216
Date Published
6 pages
This study found that police officer stress increases significantly in the first 13 years of an officer's career and then progressively decreases after 14 years to career end.
The working definition of stress used is a perceived imbalance between social demands and perceived response capability under conditions where failure to meet demands has important consequences. This study hypothesized that during the first 5 years of police work, stress will increase as the rookie officer perceives that police work is quite different from what was learned in the academy; that in the period from 6 to 13 years, stress will further increase as officers become disenchanted with an unappreciative public and police administration; that from 14 to 20 years, stress will decrease as officers become less career oriented and less reactive to gaps between ideals and reality; and that after 20 years of service, stress will be reduced further as there is even less worry about job demands and failures. To test these hypotheses a survey instrument designed to measure perceived stress and length of police service was administered to a sample of 500 police officers randomly drawn from 21 police organizations in Western New York State. The Langner 22-item test, composed of psycho-physiological and withdrawal items, was used as a stress measure. The study found that a significant curvilinear relationship existed between stress and police career stages, thus supporting all the hypotheses. Tabular and graphic data and 17 references are provided.

Date Published: January 1, 1983