Police officer alcohol use and trauma symptoms: Associations with critical incidents, coping, and social stressors

Kim S. Ménard, Michael L. Arter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Policing is a stressful occupation due to organizational and experiential stressors that can have serious outcomes for officers. Although the aforementioned stressors in policing are well documented, less is known about the social stressors experienced. Guided by Agnew's (Agnew, R., 1992. Foundation for a general strain theory of crime and delinquency. Criminology, 30, 47- 87; Agnew, R., 2006. Pressured into crime: An overview of general strain theory. Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury Publishing) General Strain Theory and using self-report online survey data from 750 American police officers, this study examines the relationship between critical incidents, negative coping, and social stressors, and officer problematic alcohol use and posttraumatic stress symptoms, controlling for demographics. Results from hierarchical OLS regressions indicate that critical incidents are positively associated with alcohol use and PTSD symptoms. Coping mediates the relationship between critical incident and alcohol use, and is both directly and indirectly associated with PTSD symptoms. Social stressors reported by officers were not associated with alcohol use, but were related to PTSD symptoms above and beyond critical incidents, negative coping, alcohol use, and other variables in the model. The final models account for 12% of the variance in alcohol use and 53% of the variance in PTSD symptoms. Theoretical and policy implications of these results are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-56
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Stress Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychology(all)


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