Police stress: value disparity, self-esteem and occupational strain
Comparative studies demonstrate that police officers suffer disproportionately from occupational stress and strain. Yet, few studies have examined the causes of observed health problems. One source of strain, previously unexplored, is the work attitudes and values that characterize police officers. Evidence from non-police studies, guided by the Person-Environment Fit Theory of Stress, suggest that value disparities among individuals and various groups which comprise the work environment can lead to strain. Additional data also suggest that the amount of strain observed may be moderated by an individual's level of self-esteem. Similar causal relationships between value disparities, self-esteem and selected measures of occupational strain have been suggested in the police literature but remain untested.This study examines three questions: Do value disparities lead to strain? Does self-esteem moderate strain? and Does individual level strain lead to occupational strain?Two hundred fifty-three police officers in a major urban department from both patrol and administrative ranks were paid to participate in this field study. Questionnaires, administered in two hour testing sessions, included the Rokeach Value Survey, the Cornell Medical Index, Spielburger Anxiety Measure, Rosenburg Self-esteem Measure, the Family APGAR, and others. Organizational data were collected from department files including the number of auto accidents and citizen complaints. The data were analyzed using multiple regression and correlational statistical procedures.The results demonstrate that value disparity does not contribute to strain. However, low self-esteem is significantly associated with high scores on the various strain measures. Individual measures of strain are also significantly associated with occupational measures of strain. Additional analysis demonstrates that high strain officers are distinguished by a high ranking of the value courageous while low strain officers are distinguished by a high ranking of the value imaginative.Both the theoretical and practical implications of the results are considered. Particular attention is devoted to organizational means to raise officer self-esteem and the utility of the Rokeach value enhancement technique for police stress control. The study concludes with an Epilogue describing the "opossum incident," a stress related event which occurred in the police department during the field research.