Social Stressors and Strain Among Police Officers: It’s Not Just the Bad Guys

Document Type




Format of Original

11 p.

Publication Date



SAGE Publications

Source Publication

Criminal Justice and Behavior

Source ISSN



This study examined the relationships of social stressors arising from interactions with civilians and suspects (outsiders) and coworkers and supervisors (insiders) with turnover intention, psychological distress, and emotional exhaustion. It also examined surface acting—a way of faking appropriate emotions—as a mediator of these relationships. Using online survey data collected from 196 police officers, the authors found that social stressors from both sources were related to all three outcomes and that surface acting mediated these relationships. These results extend the literature on emotional labor by demonstrating that models of emotional labor apply to police officers, whose customers differ from those traditionally found in the literature. This study also extends the occupational stress literature by showing that a similar emotional regulation process linking social stressors from customers to strains also holds for social stressors arising from organizational insiders.


Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol. 37, No. 9 (September 2010): 1030-1040. DOI.

Gary Adams was affiliated with University of Wisconsin Oshkosh at the time of publication.