Background: Because of their work, emergency workers, such as police officers (POs), are exposed to traumatic events on a daily basis. These experiences can have consequences in terms of physical and emotional stress. Primary attachment relationships affect the development of coping strategies for dealing with stressful events (primarily hyperactivating strategies in entangled adults and hypo-activating strategies in dismissing adults). In this study, we explored how POs describe the experience of traumatic accidents, the effects they reported and their coping strategies related to their attachment style.
Methods: We used a quantitative-qualitative method. Thirty-nine POs were administered the Beck Depression Inventory, the Maslach Burnout Inventory and a semi-structured interview about traumatic events and reactions. Interviews were analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.
Results: Traumatic events at work predominantly concerned aggressions, witnessing deaths, forced hospitalizations, and domestic violence involving children. POs with a responsible role were more likely than POs to use security-based strategies. Most POs narrated overactivation and deactivation strategies, which were associated with depressive symptoms, emotional exhaustion, and depersonalization.
Conclusions: These results can be useful to improve trauma-informed interventions for POs based on their different attachment styles and coping strategies.
Keywords: coping strategies; police officers; stress reactions; trauma.