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Psychol Trauma. 2018 Mar;10(2):183-189. doi: 10.1037/tra0000261. Epub 2017 Feb 16.

Relationships among traumatic experiences, PTSD, and posttraumatic growth for police officers: A path analysis.

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Department of Sociology, Kent State University at Stark.
Center for the Treatment and Study of Traumatic Stress, Summa Health System.
Department of Sociology, Kent State University.



Law enforcement officers tend to be exposed to a high frequency of potentially traumatic incidents. A dichotomous distinction among these events involves the witnessing of threat or harm to others and the experiencing of threat or harm directly to oneself. Past research suggests that different types of trauma exposure produce varying levels of negative posttraumatic responses including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and positive outcomes such as posttraumatic growth (PTG). With the goal of better assisting officers experiencing posttraumatic stress, enhanced knowledge regarding this psychological response to the development of PTG is necessary.


The purpose of this study was to test a proposed model involving a pathway from type of trauma exposure to PTG that is mediated by PTSD symptoms among law enforcement officers (N = 193). Differences among cognitive PTG and behavioral PTG as our dependent variables, with age, marital status, and relationship stress as control variables, were assessed.


Findings indicate that events involving threat to self are more closely related to PTG, via an indirect pathway through PTSD symptoms. Additionally, personal relationship stress was directly associated with PTSD symptoms and behavioral PTG, but not cognitive PTG.


Overall, the results of this study provide initial evidence that trauma exposure type (i.e., direct vs. indirect) plays a significant role in the level of PTG. Lastly, the results allow for the possibility of positive changes in behaviors facilitated by cognitive avoidance, in contrast to the common notion that deliberate cognitive engagement is required for growth to occur. (PsycINFO Database Record

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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