Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Clinical Psychology

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

David Schuldberg

Commitee Members

Daniel Doyle, Jennifer Waltz


complex posttraumatic stress, law enforcement, personality, personality trait change, personality trait trajectory, Police, PTSD, trauma


University of Montana


The impact of chronic trauma exposure on personality trajectories over time was examined in a sample of urban police officers. Scores from a personality measure taken in pre-hire psychological evaluations were compared with follow up scores administered for this study five to ten years later. An urban police agency of approximately 1000 commissioned police officers agreed to allow its officers to be recruited as participants. The consulting psychologist who performed the agency’s pre-hire psychological evaluations during the applicable period supplied historical data with participant consent and agency approval. Personality change between the two times was analyzed using hierarchical regression analysis, with the independent variables of interest including measures of exposure to potentially traumatic events (PTEs) and posttraumatic stress symptoms. The study tested the research hypothesis that cumulative exposure to PTEs measured by the Critical Incident History Questionnaire (CIHQ) and the Life Events Checklist (LEC) would explain a statistically significant portion of the variance in change over time between scores for the Wellbeing, Empathy, Independence, Good Impression, and Self-Control scales of the California Psychological Inventory (CPI) from baseline (pre-hire) and 5-10 years later. Higher PTE exposure scores were hypothesized to correlate with lower scores on all five measures of positive personality characteristics. The results were significant for all of the traits except Empathy. However, the direction of the change in the remaining traits were counter to the hypothesis; higher CIHQ and LEC scores were correlated with a more positive trajectory in four of the scales when controlling for the effects of posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptoms as measured by the Posttraumatic Checklist (PCL). This apparently positive response to trauma exposure may be accounted for by selection and posttraumatic growth (PTG).



© Copyright 2013 Jennifer Leigh Wills