Prospective study of police officer spouse/partners: a new pathway to secondary trauma and relationship violence?

PLoS One. 2014 Jul 2;9(7):e100663. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0100663. eCollection 2014.


Introduction: It has been reported that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with secondary spouse/partner (S/P) emotional distress and relationship violence.

Objective: To investigate the relationships between PTSD, S/P emotional distress and relationship violence among police recruits using a prospective design.

Methods: Two hypotheses were tested in 71 S/Ps: (1) Police officer reports of greater PTSD symptoms after 12 months of police service will be associated with greater secondary trauma symptoms among S/Ps; (2) Greater secondary trauma symptoms among S/Ps at 12 months will be associated with S/P reports of greater relationship violence.

Methods: 71 police recruits and their S/Ps were assessed at baseline and 12 months after the start of police officer duty. Using linear and logistic regression, we analyzed explanatory variables for 12 month S/P secondary traumatic stress symptoms and couple violence, including baseline S/P variables and couple violence, as well as exposure and PTSD reports from both S/P and officer.

Results: S/P perception of officer PTSD symptoms predicted S/P secondary traumatic stress. OS/P secondary trauma was significantly associated with both total couple violence (.34, p = .004) and S/P to officer violence (.35, p = .003).

Conclusions: Although results from this relatively small study of young police officers and their S/Ps must be confirmed by larger studies in general populations, findings suggest that S/P perception of PTSD symptoms may play a key role in the spread of traumatic stress symptoms across intimate partner relationships and intimate partner violence in the context of PTSD.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Domestic Violence / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Police*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spouses*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*