Journal of Traumatic Stress

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 379–386 | Cite as

The impact of cohesive groups in the trauma recovery context: Police spouse survivors and duty-related death

  • John M. Violanti
Brief Report


This paper examines the impact of surviving spouse social interactions on psychological distress following the death of a police officer. It was hypothesized that satisfactory interactions within the police work group would lower distress, and unsatisfactory interactions outside the police environment (justice system, media, community persons) would increase distress. Results indicated that increased quality of interactions with police groups lowered psychological distress scores. Despite increased satisfaction with groups outside of policing, spouse's distress still increased, suggesting that satisfaction with and support by police groups appears to ameliorate distress more effectively than others. These findings suggest that police agencies and personnel may be helpful to surviving spouses after the death of an officer and should formulate policy to provide long term contact and assistance.

Key words

police survivors psychological distress social support traumatic death police policy 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Amick-McMullin, A., Kilpatrick, D. G., Veronen, L. J., & Smith, S. (1989). Family survivors of homicide victims: Theoretical perspectives and an exploratory study.Journal of Traumatic Stress, 2 21–35.Google Scholar
  2. Bard, M., Arnone, H. C., & Nemiroff, D. (1985). Contextual influences on the post-traumatic stress adaptation of homicide survivor-victims. In C. R. Figley (Ed.),Trauma and its wake, Vol. 2: Traumatic stress theory, research, and intervention (pp. 90–112). New York: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  3. Cohen, S., Mermelstein, R., Kamarck, T., & Hoberman, H. (1985). Measuring the functional components of social support. In I. Sarason & B. Sarason (Eds.),Social support theory: Research and applications (pp. 25–48). The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  4. Cook, J. D., & Bickman, L. (1989). Social support and psychological symptomatology following a natural disaster.Journal of Traumatic Stress, 3 541–556.Google Scholar
  5. Danto, B. L. (1975). Bereavement and the widows of slain police officers. In E. Shoenberg (Ed.),Bereavement: Its psychological aspects (pp. 150–163). New York: Columbia.Google Scholar
  6. Derogatis, L. R. (1975).The SCL-90-R Manual. Baltimore: Clinical Psychometric Research.Google Scholar
  7. Derogatis, L. R. (1983).Administration, scoring, and procedures manual-II for the SCL-90R, Baltimore: Clinical Psychometric Research.Google Scholar
  8. Drabek, T. (1986).Human system responses to disaster: An inventory of sociological findings. (pp. 23–29). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  9. Figley, C. R. (1988). Toward a field of traumatic stress.Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1 316.Google Scholar
  10. Frederick, C. J. (1980). Effects of natural vs. human induced violence upon victims.Evaluation and Change, 71–75.Google Scholar
  11. Frederick, C. J. (1985). Selected foci in the spectrum of post traumatic stress disorder. In J. Laube & S. Murphy (Eds.),Perspectives on disaster recovery (pp. 110–130). Norwalk: Appleton-Century.Google Scholar
  12. Green, B. L. (1993). Identifying survivors at risk. In J. P. Wilson & B. Raphael (Eds.),International handbook of traumatic stress syndromes (pp. 135–144). New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  13. Green, B. L., Wilson, J. P. & Lindy, J. D. (1985). Conceptualizing PTSD: A psychosocial framework. In C. R. Figley (Ed.),Trauma and its wake: The study and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (pp. 53–69). New York: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  14. Green, B. L., Lindy, J. D., Grace, M. C. & Gleser, G. C. (1989). Multiple diagnosis in post-traumatic stress disorder: The role of war stressors.Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 177 329–335.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Hartsough, D. M. (1988). Traumatic stress as an area of research.Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1 145–153.Google Scholar
  16. Hartsough, D. M. (1990). Stress, spouses, and law enforcement: A step beyond. In J. T. Reese, J. M. Horn, & C. Dunning (Eds.),Critical incidents in policing (pp. 193–201). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  17. Horowitz, M. J. (1986).Stress response syndromes (2nd ed.) (pp. 235–263). Northvale, NJ: Aronson.Google Scholar
  18. Horowitz, M. J., Wilner, N., Kaltreider, N., & Alverez, W. (1980). Signs and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder.Archives of General Psychiatry, 37 85–92.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Kirshner, E. (1982). Data on bereavement and rehabilitation of war widows. In C. D. Spielberger & I. G. Sarason (Eds.),Stress and anxiety (Vol. 8, pp. 219–224). New York: Hemisphere.Google Scholar
  20. Lindy, J. D., Grace, M. C., & Green, B. L. (1981). Survivors: Outreach to a reluctant population.American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 51 468–479.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Niederhoffer, A., & Niederhoffer, E. (1978).The police family: From station house to ranch house (pp. 50–65). Lexington: D.C. Heath.Google Scholar
  22. Parkes, C. M. (1993). Psychiatric problems following bereavement by murder or manslaughter.British Journal of Psychiatry, 162 49–54.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Raymond, C. A. (1988). Study says memories of violent death linger in survivors, trigger psychological problems.Journal of the American Medical Association, 259 3524–3529.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Sawyer, S. (1988).Support services to surviving families of line-of-duty death. Maryland: Concerns of Police Survivors, Inc.Google Scholar
  25. Stillman, F. A. (1986).Psychological responses of surviving spouses of public safety officers killed accidentally or feloniously in the line of duty. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University.Google Scholar
  26. Stillman, F. A. (1987).Line-of-duty-deaths: Survivor and departmental responses. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.Google Scholar
  27. Stillman, F. A. (1990).Concerns of police survivors. Database available from Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), Ann Arbor, Michigan: ICPSR.Google Scholar
  28. Tyler, M. P., & Gifford, R. K. (1991). Field training accidents: The military unit as a recovery context.Journal of Traumatic Stress, 4 233–249.Google Scholar
  29. Violanti, J. M., & Aron, F. (1994). Ranking police stressors.Psychological Reports, 75 824–826.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • John M. Violanti
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Criminal JusticeRochester Institute of TechnologyRochester

Personalised recommendations