n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Types and frequency of trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder among rural police in South Africa

Volume 22, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



A police officer (PO), by the very nature of his or her work, is exposed to many events that can cause reactions such as fear, horror, and feelings of helplessness, which may lead to the development of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). While some events may cause these reactions, and the resulting PTSD symptoms, others do not. A sample of 217 rural POs, from the South African Police Service (SAPS), was interviewed to establish to which potentially traumatic events they are exposed and to obtain information on which of these events they perceive as traumatic in their own lives. The results indicated that POs experience significant distress as a result of events related to the nature of their work, but more so because of relationship or separation issues. Information on the typical reactions to the traumatic events was gathered, including the PTSD symptoms which are experienced by POs. The aforementioned information is collated by reporting on the effects of exposure to multiple types of trauma (MTT), as well as multiple exposures to trauma (MET), in the development of PTSD symptoms. Although both MTT and MET correlated significantly with PTSD symptoms (r=.409, n=216, p<.01 and r=.317, n=217, p<.01), the results indicated that MTT, and not MET, predicts PTSD symptoms as reported on the Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale (Foa, 1995). These two variables explain 19.5% of the variance in the PTSD score (p<.01), with only MTT making a significant contribution to the variance (beta=.447). Recommendations pertaining to possible strategies for the management of the mental health of Pos are also put forward.

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