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Influence of Occupational Strain on Organizational Commitment Among Police: A General Strain Theory Approach

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 40 Issue: 3 Dated: May/June 2012 Pages: 249-258
Melissa M. Moon; Cheryl Lero Jonson
Date Published
June 2012
10 pages
This study examined whether the model used by General Strain Theory (GST) to explain criminal behavior can also be applied to explain organizational commitment among police officers.
GST theory emphasizes the concept that negative emotional states caused by experiencing "strain" can create an incentive to engage in deviance as a way to alleviate the aversive effect of the strain. Agnew's model of GST identifies three main sources of strain: loss of positive stimuli, the experience of unwelcome stimuli, and the failure to achieve desired goals. The current study of 180 law enforcement personnel from multiple agencies in Northern Kentucky found that 2 strains predicted greater negative emotion: the failure to achieve desired occupational goals and the removal of positively valued stimuli. The negative emotion that stemmed from these factors, however, did not act as a mediating variable between strain and officers' commitment to the department. After controlling for the negative emotion stemming from the strain variables, the study found that the failure to achieve desired occupational goals, the removal of positive stimuli, and the two measures of noxious stimuli all significantly and directly influenced an officer's commitment to the department. Given these results, the study concludes that GST is a viable theoretical model for the study of organizational commitment among police officers. Departmental policies that serve to alleviate the strains on officers that undermine their commitment to the department should be developed and consistently implemented. Officers responding to the study's survey included line officers, detectives, school resource officers, court services workers, and upper-level managers. 6 tables, 50 references, and appended survey questionnaire