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Stress, Coping, and Alcohol Use - The Police Connection

NCJ Number
Journal of Police Science and Administration Volume: 13 Issue: 2 Dated: (June 1985) Pages: 106-110
J M Violanti; J R Marshall; B Howe
Date Published
5 pages
This article reports on a study which investigated the relationship between police job demands, stress, coping, and alcohol use.
Study data were obtained from questionnaires distributed to police officers in 21 city and local police departments. Respondents were full-time officers randomly drawn from these departments; 500 participated. The questionnaire measured police job 'demands' (emotional dissonance), coping responses (cynicism and alcohol use), and experienced stress. Questionnaire results were quantified using the Langer 22-item index for stress, a 12-item scale adopted from Niederhoffer for cynicism, and an 11-item scale (based on police work experience and role participation) was used to measure emotional dissonance. Multiple regression and path analysis were used to analyze the data. Results reveal that stress has a strong positive effect on alcohol use, while the effects of emotional dissonance and cynicism are small. These findings suggest that stress is an important factor in police use of alcohol and that alcohol as a management coping response is almost totally unrelated to 'mediation style' coping (cynicism). Indirect relationships among the variables were examined by path analysis. Analysis suggests that the indirect effect of emotional dissonance, mediated by stress and cynicism, is actually stronger than its direct effect. Finally, the effect of cynicism is to increase stress, which in turn increases alcohol use. Research on coping methods which reduce the effects of stress is suggested. Two tables and 26 references are included.