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Examining the Relationships between Traumatic Events, Coping Strategies, and Hyperarousal among First Responders

Huerta, Christina Elizabeth (2021) Examining the Relationships between Traumatic Events, Coping Strategies, and Hyperarousal among First Responders. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Police officers experience a significant number of traumatic events, or critical incidents, as a result of their occupation. Exposure to traumatic events can leave police officers susceptible to unfavorable physical, psychological, and behavioral outcomes that can impact their quality of life and ability to effectively complete job-related tasks. One of these outcomes is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is derived of four symptom clusters: re-experiencing, negative mood alterations, avoidance, and hyperarousal. The symptoms of hyperarousal include jumpiness, issues with concentration, aggression and irritability, hypervigilance, sleep issues, and risky behavior. The hyperarousal symptom cluster is particularly important to consider among this population due to the effects that these symptoms can have on the ability to properly and safely assess a crisis situation. This dissertation examines the relationship between the hyperarousal sub-scale of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, traumatic events, and coping mechanisms among a sample of law enforcement officers. Multiple regression analyses were used to examine these relationships. Structural Equation Modeling was used to investigate whether coping mechanisms mediated the relationship between traumatic events and hyperarousal. Results indicated that traumatic events were significantly associated with hyperarousal (β=0.14, p= 0.02) and the dysfunctional coping mechanism scale (β=0.58, p= 0.00). Of the critical incidents, use of force had a significant inverse association with hyperarousal (B=-0.09, p=0.00). Being involved in a situation in which one felt that their life was threatened was positively associated with increased hyperarousal (B=0.09, p=0.00). Being involved in a life-threatening situation was positively associated with increased hyperarousal [B = 0.09, p = .00]. Coping mechanisms did not mediate the relationship between traumatic events and hyperarousal among this sample. Preventative interventions could benefit this population in managing stress-related outcomes related to their occupation.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Huerta, Christina Elizabethceh110@pitt.educeh110
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairShook, Jeffreyjes98@pitt.edujes98
Committee MemberEngel, Rafaelrengel@pitt.edurengel
Committee MemberLombardi,
Committee MemberViolanti,
Date: 21 December 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 3 December 2021
Approval Date: 21 December 2021
Submission Date: 6 December 2021
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 111
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Social Work > Social Work
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: traumatic stress, coping mechanisms
Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2021 16:42
Last Modified: 19 May 2023 14:01


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