Positive and negative emotion prospectively predict trajectories of resilience and distress among high-exposure police officers

Emotion. 2013 Jun;13(3):545-53. doi: 10.1037/a0031314. Epub 2013 Jan 21.


Responses to both potentially traumatic events and other significant life stressors have been shown to conform to discrete patterns of response such as resilience, anticipatory stress, initial distress with gradual recovery, and chronic distress. The etiology of these trajectories is still unclear. Individual differences in levels of negative and positive emotion are believed to play a role in determining risk and resilience following traumatic exposure. In the current investigation, we followed police officers prospectively from academy training through 48 months of active duty, assessing levels of distress every 12 months. Using latent class growth analysis, we identified 4 trajectories closely conforming to prototypical patterns. Furthermore, we found that lower levels of self-reported negative emotion during academy training prospectively predicted membership in the resilient trajectory compared with the more symptomatic trajectories following the initiation of active duty, whereas higher levels of positive emotion during academy training differentiated resilience from a trajectory that was equivalently low on distress during academy training but consistently grew in distress through 4 years of active duty. These findings emerging from a prospective longitudinal design provide evidence that resilience is predicted by both lower levels of negative emotion and higher levels of positive emotion prior to active duty stressor exposure.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Police*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Resilience, Psychological / classification*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Young Adult