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Psychiatry Res. 2011 Jun 30;188(1):45-50. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2010.10.034. Epub 2010 Nov 23.

Protective factors for posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in a prospective study of police officers.

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Division of Mood Disorder, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China.


Although police officers are frequently exposed to potentially traumatic incidents, only a minority will develop chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Identifying and understanding protective factors could inform the development of preventive interventions; however, few studies have examined this. In the present prospective study, 233 police officers were assessed during academy training and again following 2 years of police service. Caucasian race, less previous trauma exposure, and less critical incident exposure during police service as well as greater sense of self-worth, beliefs of greater benevolence of the world, greater social support and better social adjustment, all assessed during academy training, were associated with lower PTSD symptoms after 2 years of service. Positive personality attributes assessed during training with the NEO Five-Factor Personality Inventory were not associated with lower PTSD symptoms. In a hierarchical linear regression model, only Caucasian race, lower critical incident exposure during police service, greater assumptions of benevolence of the world and better social adjustment during training remained predictive of lower PTSD symptoms after 2 years of police service. These results suggest that positive world assumptions and better social functioning during training may protect police officers from critical incident related PTSD.

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