SAGE Journal Articles

Click on the following links. Please note these will open in a new window.

Article 1: Kurtz, D. L., Zavala, E. & Melander, L. A. (2015). The influence of early strain on later strain, stress responses, and aggression by police officers. Criminal Justice Review, 40(2), 190–208. doi: 10.1177/0734016814564696

Summary: Research has established policing as one of the most stressful occupations and that work-induced strain can lead to various criminal and negative outcomes. This study extends existing literature in criminology and criminal justice by applying general strain theory to police stress. This study examines the influence of prior strain—namely, child abuse and interparental violence—on officer critical incident strain, psychological–physiological stress responses, and officer-on-officer aggression. Data analyzed the stress responses of 1,104 police officers from the Police Stress and Domestic Violence in Police Families in Baltimore, Maryland, and results show that prior strain events influence respondents in three key ways. First, those reporting exposure to childhood strain had higher work-related strain scores. Second, youthful strain events and work-related critical incident strain are associated with increased stress. Finally, child abuse exposure and critical incident strain increase the odds of officer-on-officer violence among participants. The sample offers several important implications for strain theory because it includes only adult respondents and offers some degree of control for serious adolescent delinquency.

Questions to Consider:

  1. How does strain theory apply to police deviance?
  2. According to the present study, prior strain events influence police officers in what three key ways?
  3. According to the study findings, there is a direct relationship between childhood strain and negative officer outcomes. In what way does childhood strain have an indirect influence on officer stress?


Article 2: McCarty, W. P. & Skogan, W. G. (2012). Job-related burnout among civilian and sworn police personnel. Police Quarterly, 16(1), 66–84. doi: 10.1177/1098611112457357

Summary: Employee burnout can affect workers’ health, motivation, and job performance and speed staff turnover. In law enforcement, burnout has been attributed to a variety of job-related, organizational, and personal factors, ranging from the danger inherent to the job to the liabilities of late shift work, tension with supervisors, and gender relations in the organization. Overlooked in almost all of these studies has been the place of civilians in police work, and how their burnout experiences differ from—or resemble—those of their sworn counterparts. This study is based on surveys of both sworn and civilian employees of 12 police agencies from across the United States. In the survey, they described their extent of emotional exhaustion and reported on features of their lives and work that have been hypothesized to magnify or minimize this stress reaction. The study found that the burnout process is a universal one, driven by virtually the same factors among both civilians and sworn officers. Difficulties balancing work and life responsibilities, the support they receive from coworkers and supervisors, the fairness of personnel policies, and several personal factors contributed to burnout levels. The implications of these findings for both research and practice are also explored.

Questions to Consider:

  1. Why is the study of burnout on police employees (sworn and civilian) important? How can burnout impact employees and their organization?
  2. How did sworn officers and civilian employees differ with regard to burnout in the present study?
  3. What are some of the practical implications from this study?