Personal and organizational predictors of posttraumatic adaption and growth in police officers
Paton, D and Burke, KJ, Personal and organizational predictors of posttraumatic adaption and growth in police officers, Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies, 1, (2007) pp. 1-12. ISSN 1174-4707 (2007) [Refereed Article]
Police officers are in the front line for exposure to critical incidents. This paper argues that while critical incidents can challenge psychological equilibrium, this circumstance should be conceptualized as a catalyst for change rather than as an automatic precursor of posttraumatic pathology. Following a discussion of the relationship between posttraumatic growth and future adaptive capacity, evidence supporting two approaches to examining the relationship between critical incident experience and salutary outcomes is reviewed. One considers how police officers' mental models can be developed prior to exposure to increase their adaptive capacity and reduce the likelihood of an experience becoming a critical incident in the first place. The second accommodates the fact that officers will continue to experience novel, unexpected, challenging incidents, and discusses how personal, team and organizational factors interact to render challenging experiences coherent and meanings. The notion of conceptualizing the relationship between traumatic experience and growth and adaptive capacity as a form of punctuated equilibrium is discussed, as is the need to include non-traumatic challenging events in the assessment of posttrauma outcomes in police populations.