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Stress Health. 2014 Dec;30(5):356-65. doi: 10.1002/smi.2608.

Trauma-exposed firefighters: relationships among posttraumatic growth, posttraumatic stress, resource availability, coping and critical incident stress debriefing experience.

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Department of Psychology, Western Institute for Social Research, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA, USA.


This project examines protective factors associated with resilience/posttraumatic growth and risk factors associated with posttraumatic stress among firefighters exposed to critical incidents. The participants were 286 (257 men and 29 women) volunteer and paid firefighters in Whatcom County, Washington. Participants completed an anonymous survey asking about demographics, critical incident exposure, posttraumatic stress symptoms, posttraumatic growth, resource availability, coping, occupational stress and critical incident stress debriefing experience. Most participants had significant critical incident exposure, and about half had attended critical incident stress debriefing sessions. Posttraumatic growth was associated with being female, critical incident exposure, critical incident stress debriefing attendance, posttraumatic stress symptoms (negative association), occupational support, occupation satisfaction, occupational effort, problem-focused coping, emotion-focused coping and personal characteristic resources. Posttraumatic stress symptoms were positively associated with years of firefighting, burnout, occupational effort and disengagement coping and negatively associated with critical incident stress debriefing attendance, posttraumatic growth, social support, internal locus of control, personal characteristic resources, energy resources and condition resources. The findings support conservation of resources stress theory and show that the maintenance and acquisition of resources can offset losses and facilitate resilience/posttraumatic growth. Implications of the findings for enhancing firefighter resources, facilitating resilience and minimizing occupational stressors are discussed.


firefighters; posttraumatic growth; posttraumatic stress; resilience; social support

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