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Resentment

Topics: Couples, Family, Mental Health

Resentment

We can understand resentment as a mixture of feelings of frustration, anger, envy, and sadness. This emotion can surface when we feel something is unfair or unjust, or if we fail to set boundaries, or we feel let down. Resentment can make us feel ill about something that we think is wrong. Resentment can be an individual or shared experience. It is a complex emotion that can be shaped by and shape other negative feelings like loneliness, fear, grief, etc.

PSP family members might feel resentment toward the PSP’s job requirements such as shiftwork or unscheduled overtime. PSP’s work is usually less flexible than typical jobs. Rotating and unpredictable shifts have to be accommodated. There could be resentment over the camaraderie/companionship the PSP has with coworkers. PSP family members have reported feeling resentment when the PSP job is prioritized and seems to be more important than family.

Resentment could result in:

  • a lack of physical and emotional support
  • emotional unavailability
  • reduced communication
  • lack of understanding

Sources of SSO resentment

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  • SSOs may give up their careers or reduce hours to manage the home because the PSP’s work schedule and time at home is so unpredictable. The PSP career may be given priority over the SSO career.
  • Household tasks including childcare and eldercare may primarily be the responsibility of SSOs.
  • SSOs may be left to shift plans and schedules and pick up the slack when there is a unexpected schedule change (e.g., overtime or call-ins).
  • Explaining a sudden absence of the PSP family member to friends and family and dealing with disappointment can be difficult.
  • Work and home transitions can be challenging. SSOs may try to keep children quiet and allow PSP time to recover from a shift when they are experiencing stress and fatigue themselves.
  • SSOs may feel that the sacrifices they make and the responsibilities they take on are expected and taken for granted. It can be frustrating if their contributions are not valued or recognized.

Continuously shifting schedules, plans, and routines

PSP families have identified the many ways that the unpredictability of PSP work interferes with family life.

Over the years these experiences become ‘normal’ parts of daily life for PSP families. SSOs and other family members are expected to adapt. But, over time, with many changes and disruptions, SSOs can feel that they are taken for granted and ‘the job’ is more important.

Many PSP families understand, and many accept the risks and requirements of the job. However, the constant nature of the disruptions can pile up and become more than families can manage. The seemingly endless demands and the lack of recognition for the role of family members can be frustrating. Families feel resentment toward ‘the job’ which is central to tensions and conflicts that arise.

The impacts of work schedules on a PSP family’s social life

References for this page (click to expand)

Alrutz, A. S., Buetow, S., Cameron, L. D., & Huggard, P. K. (2020). What happens at work comes home. Healthcare (Basel), 8(3), 350. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare8030350 

Black, A. (2004). The treatment of psychological problems experienced by the children of police officers in Northern Ireland. Child care in practice : Northern Ireland journal of multi-disciplinary child care practice, 10(2), 99-106. https://doi.org/10.1080/13575270410001693330  

Carrington, J. L. (2006). Elements of and strategies for maintaining a police marriage: The lived perspectives of Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers and their spouses. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.  

Cigrang, J. A. et al. (2016). The Marriage Checkup: Adapting and Implementing a Brief Relationship Intervention for Military Couples. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 23, 561-570. 

Cowlishaw, S., Evans, L., & McLennan, J. (2008). Families of rural volunteer firefighters. Rural Society, 18(1), 17-25. https://doi.org/10.5172/rsj.351.18.1.17  

Ewles, G. (2019). Enhancing organizational support for emergency first responders and their families: Examining the role of personal support networks after the experience of work-related trauma. PhD Thesis. University of Guelph. 

Merolla, A. J. (2010). Relational maintenance during military deployment: Perspectives of wives of deployed US soldiers. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 38(1), 4–26. https://doi.org/10.1080/00909880903483557 

Miller, L. (2007). Police families: Stresses, syndromes, and solutions. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 35(1), 21-40. https://doi.org/10.1080/01926180600698541  

Regehr, C. (2005). Bringing the trauma home: Spouses of paramedics. Journal of Loss & Trauma, 10(2), 97-114. https://doi.org/10.1080/15325020590908812  

Regehr, C., Dimitropoulos, G., Bright, E., George, S., & Henderson, J. (2005). Behind the brotherhood: Rewards and challenges for wives of firefighters. Family Relations, 54(3), 423-435. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2005.00328.x 

Roberts, N. A., & Levenson, R. W. (2001). The Remains of the Workday: Impact of Job Stress and Exhaustion on Marital Interaction in Police Couples. Journal of marriage and family, 63(4), 1052-1067. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.01052.x 

Watkins, S. L., Shannon, M. A., Hurtado, D. A., Shea, S. A., & Bowles, N. P. (2021). Interactions between home, work, and sleep among firefighters. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 64(2), 137-148. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.23194 

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Public perceptions

Topics: Couples, Family, Mental Health

Public perceptions

Public perceptions are the stories about PSP and PSP sectors that are commonly believed by the general public. These stories can quickly shift and change which can be frustrating for both PSP and their families. Movies and TV often portray PSP work as either glamorous or corrupt which can lead to misinformation about ‘the job’. Media and social media can also shift public perception in the way that they report stories involving PSP. Stereotypes create further misconceptions. Because of these factors, PSP families never know what to expect from the public.

PSP family members may also feel that they are being held to an impossible standard. For example, children may feel pressure to be ‘extra good’ because their parent is a police officer. These feelings might be stronger in rural communities, where community members are more likely to know each other. 

Negative public perception can be very frustrating for PSP and for their families who sacrifice holidays, weekends, time, and personal safety to protect the community. It can be hurtful to know what a PSP family member does every day, and then hear negative things said about them. In some cases, negative public perception has lead to threats and safety concerns for PSP families.

Overall, because public perceptions can change so quickly, the importance of public perception – positive, negative, or absent – is felt by PSP families and can impact relationships and the wellbeing of individual family members.


Positive public perceptions

Impacts of gratitude on PSP families

Gratitude – When members of the public express gratitude to PSP and/or their families, they are showing their appreciation. This gratitude is welcomed by some PSP families who feel that it validates the importance of the PSP role. When gratitude is extended to other family members, the public is also acknowledging the contribution of PSP families.

Pride

Certain PSP sectors are shown to experience more gratitude than others. Firefighters are often publicly recognized for their bravery and service. Paramedics and similar emergency medical service careers are also often viewed positively by the public. PSP family members might also receive direct forms of praise from the public for the work their PSP member does (e.g., “thank you for the work your mother/father does”). 

Validation

Positive public perception can be experienced as validation by PSP family members. If the public appreciates what the PSP does, then it can make all of the commitment and sacrifices feel worthwhile. Sometimes, however, gratitude is shown only to the PSP, and the roles of SSOs and other family members are not considered. When families are not recognized, they may feel that their contribution is not well understood.

Civic mindedness

PSP families who are viewed positively by the public may develop civic mindedness. They may be actively involved in their communities and feel a sense of pride in being recognized as a PSP family. This might, however, also increase pressure for PSP family members to live up to public expectations. Because the community shows appreciation, PSP families may feel obligated to do more. This can increase demands on their time. 

Belonging

PSP families benefit when communities value the important work that they do. Families sometimes feel out of sync with others due to work demands and public recognition is important. When PSP families are acknowledged, there is a positive sense of identity and belonging.


Negative public perceptions

Impacts of public disdain on PSP families

Disdain is a feeling of dislike. It is often demonstrated through disrespect or contempt. PSP who are in positions of authority, such as police and corrections officers, are often targeted in this way. Current events, world news, and social trends can influence these negative perceptions.

Negative public perception can have a direct impact on PSP job satisfaction and the overall wellbeing of families.

  • For example, law enforcement officers are among the sectors treated with the most disdain. They can experience verbal abuse, anger, threats, etc., which can create stress for them and their families.

 

Mental health

Negative feedback from members of the public can challenge a PSP’s commitment and pride in their work. It can affect self-confidence and behaviours both at work and at home. This can lead to tension, uncertainty, and boundary confusion, experienced by PSP families. Families struggle with the negative feedback too. Negative public opinions can challenge beliefs and family values that are often related to the PSP role. PSP families may feel isolated from the rest of the community. A feeling of ‘us and them’ could develop resulting in a lack of social support. 

Children

Police children report receiving unfair comments and criticism about a PSP parent’s work. As children age, they sometimes grapple with negative comments from peers and social media. They might question the pride they once felt which can lead to ambivalence – they still believe in the importance of public safety but may resent the PSP or the ‘job’ because of the way they are treated.

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References for this page (click to expand)

Bochantin, J. E. (2010). Sensemaking in a high-risk lifestyle: The relationship between work and family for public safety families. PhD Thesis. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.  

Carrico, C. P. (2012). A look inside firefighter families: A qualitative study. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.  

Carrington, J. L. (2006). Elements of and strategies for maintaining a police marriage: The lived perspectives of Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers and their spouses. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.  

Duarte, C. S., Eisenberg, R., Musa, G. J., Addolorato, A., Shen, S., & Hoven, C. W. (2017). Children’s knowledge about parental exposure to trauma. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 12(1), 31-35. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40653-017-0159-7  

Freeman, R. M. (2001). Here there be monsters: Public perception of corrections. Corrections Today, 63(3), 108-111. 

Helfers, R. C., Reynolds, P. D., & Scott, D. M. (2021). Being a blue blood: A phenomenological study on the lived experiences of police officers’ children. Police Quarterly, 24(2), 233-261. https://doi.org/10.1177/1098611120964954  

Majchrowska, A., Pawlikowski, J., Jojczuk, M., Nogalski, A., Bogusz, R., Nowakowska, L., & Wiechetek, M. (2021). Social prestige of the paramedic profession. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(4), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18041506 

McCubbin, H. I., & McCubbin, M. A. (1988). Typologies of resilient families: Emerging roles of social class and ethnicity. Family Relations, 37(3), 247-254. https://doi.org/10.2307/584557 

Miller, L. (2007). Police families: Stresses, syndromes, and solutions. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 35(1), 21-40. https://doi.org/10.1080/01926180600698541  

Nix, J., & Wolfe, S. E. (2017). The impact of negative publicity on police self-legitimacy. Justice Quarterly, 34(1), 84–108. https://doi.org/10.1080/07418825.2015.1102954 

Tucker, J. M., Bratina, M. P., & Caprio, B. (2022). Understanding the effect of news media and social media on first responders. Crisis, Stress, and Human Resilience: An International Journal, 3(4) 106-137.  

Walsh, F. (2003). Family Resilience: A framework for clinical practice. Family Process, 42(1), 1-18. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1545-5300.2003.00001.x  

Woody, R. H. (2006). Family interventions with law enforcement officers. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 34(2), 95-103. https://doi.org/10.1080/01926180500376735  


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Conflict

Topics: Couples, Family, Mental Health

Conflict between work and family

 

Working adults are often confronted by both the demands of work and the demands of family. Sometimes the two are incompatible. Long hours and rotating shifts can interfere with family time, and family life (e.g., childcare) can interfere with work. The conflict between work and family can be an issue for PSP families where the job demands of PSP are significant. Unpredictable schedules, trauma exposure, and other work pressures can spill over into family life in different ways. Families can find themselves competing with “the job” for time and attention. Recognizing work-related spillover as the source of conflict can help families manage the conflict and reduce related stress.

Three types of conflict that can affect PSP families:

1. Time-based conflict

Time-based conflict happens when rotating schedules, overtime, or call-ins interfere with family time and socializing. Conflicts can arise when decisions and last-minute changes are dictated by the PSP schedule. There may be added tension when unexpected changes interfere with plans and special events. Dual-career couples with young children must also manage conflicts between work and the availability of childcare.

2. Strain-based conflict

Strain-based conflict occurs when the tension and stress from work spill over into the home and affect the family. The PSP may be overtired from a long shift or bring administrative tasks home. Conflicts arise when work pressures affect the PSP at home and interfere with family involvement and responsibilities. Conflict can also arise when stress from home creates conflict. During transitions, and when there are high family demands, the risk of strain-based conflict increases.

3. Behaviour-based conflict

Behaviours more suited to family life are often inappropriate at work. Similarly, conduct suited to the workplace can be problematic at home. PSP jobs often involve a “military-like” chain of command and require strict procedures. Control and hypervigilance required by the PSP on the job can conflict with the warmth and understanding needed at home. PSP can also be overprotective and strict because of what they see on the job. When work behaviours spill over into home life, there can be tension in family relationships.

Examples of conflict

The impact on couples

Quality couple time can support the mental health and wellbeing of both partners and strengthen relationships.

Unfortunately, the requirements of the PSP job often put added stress on couple relationships. Shiftwork can make it hard to schedule couple time. When PSP are home, they may need to catch up on sleep or recover from a difficult shift. This can limit couple time which can be challenging for SSOs and a source of resentment. Conflicts can arise between time spent ‘on the job’ and responsibilities and commitments at home.

Intimacy

Intimacy can be understood as a close, loving relationship with another person. Intimacy can have emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual aspects. PSP couples can experience challenges related to intimacy due to high levels of fatigue and stress. Behavioural withdrawal can also be problematic. Reduced energy, difficulty processing trauma, and time limitations associated with shiftwork can significantly reduce couple time and intimacy.

Loneliness

A lack of couple time due to rotating shifts and overtime can lead to feelings of loneliness for SSOs. When PSP are processing trauma, they may also be distant which isolates SSOs and deprives them of mutual support. SSOs who take on the majority of the household/childcare responsibilities due to PSP’s scheduling requirements also face constraints on their time. They may feel frustrated because they have fewer opportunities to socialize due to commitments in the home.

Presence

The absence of the PSP due to long shifts can be problematic and place an unfair share of responsibilities on SSOs. PSP’s return home can also be challenging and require adjustments. Conflict can arise particularly when there has been a change in the shift rotation (e.g., days to evenings). PSP who re-enter the home after a shift change can interrupt established routines, creating tension within the family.

Communication

Communication for PSP couples can be influenced by a lack of couple time, work stress, fatigue, and issues of confidentiality. It can be difficult for couples to find time for important conversations, particularly when they are a dual-career couple and/or there are children. Poor couple communication can lead to feelings of loneliness, resentment, and increased anxiety. Long hours and work pressures can interfere with a couple’s ability to connect and communicate.

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References for this page (click to expand)

Brodie, P. J., & Eppler, C. (2012). Exploration of perceived stressors, communication, and resilience in law-enforcement couples. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 23(1), 20-41. https://doi.org/10.1080/08975353.2012.654082  

Duxbury, L., & Higgins, C. (2012). Caring for and about those who serve: Work-life conflict and employee wellbeing within Canada’s police. Sprott School of Business, Carleton University.  

Greenhaus, J. H., & Beutell, N. J. (1985). Sources of conflict between work and family roles. The Academy of Management Review, 10(1), 76-88. https://doi.org/10.2307/258214  

King, D. B., & DeLongis, A. (2014). When couples disconnect: Rumination and withdrawal as maladaptive responses to everyday stress. Journal of family psychology, 28(4), 460-469. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037160  

Lambert, E. G., Hogan, N. L., & Barton, S. M. (2004). The nature of work-family conflict among correctional staff: An exploratory examination. Criminal Justice Review (Atlanta, Ga.), 29(1), 145-172. https://doi.org/10.1177/073401680402900109  

Patterson, J. M. (1988). Families experiencing stress. I. The family adjustment and adaptation response model. II. Applying the FAAR model to health-related issues for intervention and research. Family Systems Medicine, 6(2), 202-237. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0089739  

Watkins, S. L., Shannon, M. A., Hurtado, D. A., Shea, S. A., & Bowles, N. P. (2021). Interactions between home, work, and sleep among firefighters. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 64(2), 137-148. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.23194  


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Ambivalence

Topics: Couples, Family, Mental Health

Ambivalence

PSP families play an important role in the work of the PSP. Family members are often involved in the organization in some way, and also take part in supporting the PSP outside of work. However, PSP families may feel some tension with that role as they try to take care of their own needs and wellbeing. This can lead to ambivalence. Ambivalent feelings are contradictory feelings. Mixed emotions of pride, confusion, and uncertainty is another way to describe ambivalence. For example, a spouse or significant other (SSO) or child may feel proud that a family member is a police officer and, at the same time, have negative feelings about that role.

Ambivalence can arise at different times over the course of a PSP career. It can be more or less intense and stirred up by a variety of experiences. For example, due to the job, PSP miss important family events, their commitment to the organization comes before their family, or they are unexpectedly called into work. These types of disruptions can lead to feelings of ambivalence.

Being a part of a public safety organization often means that those within it are expected to behave in particular ways. PSP enact particular roles, and PSP families are expected to support the organization’s values and practices. Loyalty to the organization is often part of being a PSP family. This can be a source of pride, but also comes with pressure and expectations. When loyalty is forced, it is not always embraced, which can lead to feelings of ambivalence.

Ambivalence can also be felt when PSP families face negative messages from the public. They can feel pride and, at the same time, feel frustration or embarrassment if there is criticism of PSP in the media.


Why might PSP families experience ambivalence?


What shapes ambivalent feelings?

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References for this page (click to expand)

Bochantin, J. E. (2016). “Morning fog, spider webs, and escaping from Alcatraz”: Examining metaphors used by public safety employees and their families to help understand the relationship between work and family. Communication Monographs, 83(2), 214-238. https://doi.org/10.1080/03637751.2015.1073853  

Cowlishaw, S., Evans, L., & McLennan, J. (2008). Families of rural volunteer firefighters. Rural Society, 18(1), 17-25. https://doi.org/10.5172/rsj.351.18.1.17  

Cox, M., Norris, D., Cramm, H., Richmond, R., & Anderson, G. S. (2022). Public safety personnel family resilience: A narrative review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(9), 5224. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19095224  

Garmezy, L. B. (2020). Swimming upstream: The first responder’s marriage. In C. A. Bowers, D. C. Beidel, & M. R. Marks (Eds.), Mental health intervention and treatment of first responders and emergency workers (pp. 16–31). Medical Information Science Reference/IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-5225-9803-9.ch002 

Helfers, R. C., Reynolds, P. D., & Scott, D. M. (2021). Being a blue blood: A phenomenological study on the lived experiences of police officers’ children. Police Quarterly, 24(2), 233-261. https://doi.org/10.1177/1098611120964954  

Hill, R., Sundin, E., & Winder, B. (2020). Work–family enrichment of firefighters: “satellite family members”, risk, trauma and family functioning. International Journal of Emergency Services, 9(3), 395-407. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJES-08-2019-0046  

Karaffa, K., Openshaw, L., Koch, J., Clark, H., Harr, C., & Stewart, C. (2015). Perceived impact of police work on marital relationships. The Family Journal (Alexandria, Va.), 23(2), 120-131. https://doi.org/10.1177/1066480714564381  

Landers, A. L., Dimitropoulos, G., Mendenhall, T. J., Kennedy, A., & Zemanek, L. (2020). Backing the blue: Trauma in law enforcement spouses and couples. Family Relations, 69(2), 308-319. https://doi.org/10.1111/fare.12393  

Regehr, C., Dimitropoulos, G., Bright, E., George, S., & Henderson, J. (2005). Behind the brotherhood: Rewards and challenges for wives of firefighters. Family Relations, 54(3), 423-435. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2005.00328.x  

Rothman, N. B., Pratt, M. G., Rees, L., & Vogus, T. J. (2017). Understanding the dual nature of ambivalence: Why and when ambivalence leads to good and bad outcomes. The Academy of Management Annals, 11(1), 33-72. https://doi.org/10.5465/annals.2014.0066  

Walsh, F. (2016). Strengthening family resilience (Third edition. ed.). The Guilford Press. 


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Organizational Expectations

Topics: Couples, Family, Mental Health

Organizational pressures

Absence of PSP: Rotating shifts, long hours, and working holidays and weekends are requirements of the job for PSP and take away from important family routines and activities. Organizational pressures such as staffing and resource shortages further contribute to tension between work and family. PSP families have little control over unpredictable work schedules and can find themselves competing with the organization for family time.

Co-worker camaraderie: PSP often rely on co-workers and are required to work as a team. PSP may bond with their co-workers through shared experiences. It can be helpful for them to debrief and seek support from each other after a potentially traumatic incident. This is a valuable support for the PSP but can challenge intimate relationships. SSOs can feel left out when the PSP turns to co-workers for support.

Commitment and loyalty to the job: Organizations require a high level of commitment from PSP. As essential emergency services, PSP are expected to respect the risks and requirements of the job. In practical terms, this means that work time often takes priority over family time. Families face challenges so that PSP can maintain their loyalty and fulfill their commitment.

Challenges of organizational expectations

Effects on family life

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References for this page (click to expand)

1Carrico, C. P. (2012). A look inside firefighter families: A qualitative study. PhD Thesis. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.  

Agocs, T., Langan, D., & Sanders, C. B. (2015). Police mothers at home: Police work and danger-protection parenting practices. Gender & Society, 29(2), 265-289. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243214551157  

Bochantin, J. E. (2010). Sensemaking in a high-risk lifestyle: The relationship between work and family for public safety families. PhD Thesis. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.  

Brodie, P. J., & Eppler, C. (2012). Exploration of perceived stressors, communication, and resilience in law-enforcement couples. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 23(1), 20-41. https://doi.org/10.1080/08975353.2012.654082  

Carrington, J. L. (2006). Elements of and strategies for maintaining a police marriage: The lived perspectives of Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers and their spouses. PhD Thesis. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.  

Cox, M., Norris, D., Cramm, H., Richmond, R., & Anderson, G. S. (2022). Public safety personnel family resilience: A narrative review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(9), 5224. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19095224  

Duxbury, L., Bardoel, A., & Halinski, M. (2021). ‘Bringing the badge home’: Exploring the relationship between role overload, work-family conflict, and stress in police officers. Policing & Society, 31(8), 997-1016. https://doi.org/10.1080/10439463.2020.1822837  

Hill, R., Sundin, E., & Winder, B. (2020). Work–family enrichment of firefighters: “satellite family members”, risk, trauma and family functioning. International Journal of Emergency Services, 9(3), 395-407. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJES-08-2019-0046  

Miller, L. (2007). Police families: Stresses, syndromes, and solutions. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 35(1), 21-40. https://doi.org/10.1080/01926180600698541  

Regehr, C., Dimitropoulos, G., Bright, E., George, S., & Henderson, J. (2005). Behind the brotherhood: Rewards and challenges for wives of firefighters. Family relations, 54(3), 423-435. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2005.00328.x  

Ricciardelli, R., Carleton, R. N., Groll, D., & Cramm, H. (2018). Qualitatively unpacking Canadian public safety personnel experiences of trauma and their well-being. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 60(4), 566-577. https://doi.org/10.3138/cjccj.2017-0053.r2  

Tuttle, B. M., Giano, Z., & Merten, M. J. (2018). Stress spillover in policing and negative relationship functioning for law enforcement marriages. The Family Journal (Alexandria, Va.), 26(2), 246-252. https://doi.org/10.1177/1066480718775739 


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