Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Clinical Psychology

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

David Schuldberg

Commitee Members

Daniel P. Doyle, Lucian Conway III, Rick Van den Pol, James Caringi


Law Enforcement Mental Health, Police Personality, Posttraumatic Growth, PTSD, Public safety Mental Health, Resiliency


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to investigate relationships between occupational trauma exposure, work environment stress, personality traits, posttraumatic stress, and posttraumatic growth in police officers.

Scope of the study: A cross sectional mixed method research study design with longitudinal component was utilized. The sample consisted of 109 police officers in approximately 13 police agencies from multiple communities ranging from small rural departments to major city and statewide agencies.

Instruments used: The California Psychological Inventory 434 (CPI-434); the Police Stress Questionnaire-Operational; the Police Stress Questionnaire-Organizational; the Critical Incident History Questionnaire; the Posttraumatic Checklist for the DSM-5; the Centrality of Event Scale; a critical incident Mental Health Intervention Checklist (created by the researcher), and the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory-Short form were utilized. Where possible, historical CPI-434 scores from pre-employment evaluations were examined to determine the predictive power in officer mental health outcomes, although, due to limited availability, this longitudinal portion of the study was exploratory only.

Research questions: This study seeks to clarify how specific on-duty events and categories of events experienced by police officers are related to subjective experiences of Posttraumatic Growth; whether more comprehensive training before critical incidents occur and mental health interventions and support following critical incidents relate to lower work environment stress and greater posttraumatic growth; and to clarify the relationships between occupational trauma exposure, subjective perception of event centrality, posttraumatic stress symptoms, posttraumatic growth, personality traits and characteristics, work environment stressors, and mental health interventions.

Findings: There were significant correlations between event centrality and posttraumatic growth, as well as correlations between specific events and event types, the degree of event centrality, and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Pre-incident training was the most broadly significant mental health activity and was correlated with lower posttraumatic stress, higher posttraumatic growth, and lower perceptions of work environment stress. Posttraumatic stress was negatively correlated with nearly all positive personality traits measured by the CPI-434. The results of these analyses and how they relate to other research on Posttraumatic Growth are examined, as well as policy and practice implications for first responder mental health support, limitations of the study, and recommendations for future research.



© Copyright 2018 Jennifer Leigh Wills