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Unpredictability: Sleep disruptions

Topics: Couples, Family, Mental Health

Unpredictability: Sleep disruptions

Sleep can be disrupted for PSP families for a number of reasons. When PSP are at work, family members may have a hard time falling or staying asleep due to worry. The timing when PSP leave and return home can be out of sync with family members, interfering with their sleep and sleep routines. When PSP need to sleep in the day, family members change their activities to maintain quiet.

Both the shift work and the unpredictability of PSP work can interfere with sleep. In some PSP sectors, such as volunteer firefighting, there may be an expectation for a PSP to be on call often, leading to the possibility of call-ins at any time. This disrupts both their sleep and the sleep of their spouse/significant other (SSOs) and family members.

Unexpected call-ins and overtime can also lead to inconsistent schedules for children. Wake up, bedtimes, and nap times might get rearranged due to the unpredictability of PSP work.


Why is it so hard to sleep when the PSP is at work?


PSP’s daytime sleep is out of sync with family life

  • Family members feel like they have to be especially quiet.
  • Routines and extracurriculars for family members can be disrupted.
  • Weekends and holidays when the whole family tends to be home are particularly challenging.
  • Babies and young children who may cry create noise that interferes with the PSP’s sleep.
  • Pets who play and need to go outside may also be at odds with the need for daytime sleep.
  • All these issues were magnified during COVID-19 when family members stayed home to work or attend virtual school.
  • PSP sleeping in the day throws off everyday family routines such as mealtimes.
  • When PSP sleep during the day, their bedtime is often out of sync with the family that night.

 

What happens when sleep is disrupted?

Learn about some of the outcomes of sleep disruption by clicking on the “i”

References for this page (click to expand)

Ananat, E. O. & Gassman-Pines, A. (2021). Work schedule unpredictability: daily occurrence and effect on working parents’ well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 83(1):10-26. https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12696 

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.  

Cowlishaw, S., Evans, L., & McLennan, J. (2010). Work-family conflict and crossover in volunteer emergency service workers. Work & Stress, 24(4), 342–358. https://doi.org/10.1080/02678373.2010.532947 

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  

Friese, K. M. (2020). Cuffed together: A study on how law enforcement work impacts the officer’s spouse. International Journal of Police Science & Management, 22(4), 407-418. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461355720962527  

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  

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 

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  

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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Dangers: Physical injury and illness

Topics: Couples, Family, Mental Health

Physical injury and illness

How might physical injury affect PSP families?

Some PSP family members have identified the risk of physical and mental injury as their greatest worry.

Spillover

The risk of injury or illness can create stress for the PSP. This stress can spill over into family life causing tension. At the same time, family members may also be fearful and worry about the dangers of the job. The wellbeing of the PSP family member, loss of income, and disruptions to family life are primary concerns. Open communication about the real risks and contingency plans can prevent worry from getting out of control.

Physical stress

Family members often become caregivers when a PSP is injured or ill. There may be physical demands associated with this care. Family caregivers may experience physical fatigue due to increased responsibilities. This can put their own health at risk and lead to role overload. The expectation that SSOs or other family members will provide care is not always realistic. It is important for PSP couples and families to have conversations about caregiving.

Emotional distress

When a family member is injured or ill, family life changes. There are worries along with added responsibilities for SSOs and other family caregivers. They may experience the emotional distress of ‘not being able to do it all’ and concerns about the future. Having a network of support during these times can be invaluable. It can be useful to think in advance about who can be relied on for support. It is important to consider those who can offer both practical help and emotional support.

Social isolation

Routines and social activities can also be disrupted by an illness or injury. There may be less time and fewer opportunities to engage in activities outside of the home. Attention to caregiving may result in an SSO taking time off work. Added responsibilities may also limit contact with friends and family. Altogether, access to much needed social support is lessened. Having realistic expectations about how care might be managed ahead of time can help prevent such outcomes.

Shifting relationships

When PSP have a brain injury or a posttraumatic stress injury (PTSI), they may experience behavioural changes. This can impact intimacy in couple relationships and shift additional responsibilities to SSOs. These types of injuries can also affect parent-child relationships. There may be heightened expectations for children to regulate their behaviours. It is important for families to support both the wellbeing of the PSP and individual family members.

Financial strain

Both short and long term injuries or illnesses can put financial strain on PSP couples or families. There may be temporary or permanent loss of income for the PSP. SSOs may cut back hours of paid work to provide care which further reduces household income. Reduced earning potential and expenses associated with care can cause financial strain. It is important for families to develop a financial plan to manage these risks.

References for this page (click to expand)

American Psychological Association. (2022). APA Dictionary of Psychology. American Psychological Association. Retrieved July 18, 2022, from https://dictionary.apa.org/ 

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.  

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  

Friese, K. M. (2020). Cuffed together: A study on how law enforcement work impacts the officer’s spouse. International Journal of Police Science & Management, 22(4), 407-418. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461355720962527  

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  

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  

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  

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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Unpredictability: Anxiety

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Anxiety

 

When a person experiences anxiety, it can feel like nervousness or fear. Anxiety involves anticipating some kind of danger or negative event, either real or imagined. Anxiety can lead to physical reactions like an increased heart rate, shallow breathing, and/or muscle tension. It is an emotion that can be experienced both in the moment and over longer periods of time. In the short-term, anxiety can alert you to react to a perceived threat. When anxiety endures, it can develop into a clinical condition.

If you are experiencing significant worry or anxiety that interferes with your day-to-day life (e.g., work, relationships, sleep, or other important parts of your life), it is recommended that you consult your health care provider.

Effects of unpredictability of PSP work on PSP families

Activity: Identifying aspects that can shape PSP family anxiety

Please attempt this activity first, then read about the topic. Drag from A all that you think contributes to PSP family anxiety and drop in B.

 

Understanding the effects of unpredictability

Please click on each information icon on the pie to learn about the effects of unpredictability of PSP work on PSP families.

 

What is catastrophic thinking?

  • When we don’t have all the information about something, we can fill in the blanks. When we fill in the blanks with worst-case-scenario possibilities, we experience catastrophic thinking.
  • The unpredictability of PSP life can lead to anxiety and anxiety can easily lead to catastrophic thinking. For example, if a PSP is late coming home because they are filling in paperwork, anxiety could lead a family member to think that their PSP is hurt or dead.
  • While it is completely normal for PSP family members to have these fleeting thoughts, what is important is that they have ways to work through them. For practical suggestions on how to reframe catastrophic thoughts, please visit: https://www.pspnet.ca/en/for-families-of-psp/family-and-couples-resource-hub.

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References for this page (click to expand)

American Psychological Association. (2022). APA Dictionary of Psychology. American Psychological Association. Retrieved July 18, 2022, from https://dictionary.apa.org/ 

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.  

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  

Friese, K. M. (2020). Cuffed together: A study on how law enforcement work impacts the officer’s spouse. International Journal of Police Science & Management, 22(4), 407-418. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461355720962527  

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  

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  

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  

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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Dangers: Anxiety

Topics: Couples, Family, Mental Health

Anxiety

Anxiety can be experienced by PSP families for many reasons due to dangers which are part of the job. There is often the fear of injury or death associated with these dangers. Media reports of serious incidents and fatalities can increase feelings of anxiety for both adults and children. PSP are at higher risk of both psychological and physical injuries than the general public. This increased risk of injury and the harmful effects of events and situations create stress for both PSP and their families. This anxiety, stress, and tension can spill over into family life due to uncertainty about the PSP’s safety on the job. Physical injuries can have short- and long-term impacts on families. Families also worry about exposure to trauma which can affect mental health and family relationships. Worry is natural and unavoidable for most families. Families can support the wellbeing of family members by being aware of the effects and managing them in healthy ways.

What “fuels” worry and fear?

Please attempt this activity first, then read about the topic.

 

While many situations can “fuel” worry, everyone is unique. We all experience worry differently. PSP families have identified key factors that can shape anxiety.

The effects of anxiety on children

  • Children’s awareness of the risks and dangers of the PSP parent’s job varies. Studies have shown some children have heightened awareness and others express little concern.
  • Children can experience anxiety, stress, and anger due to concerns about a PSP parent’s safety. They are impacted by TV news and reports on social media. Representations of PSP on TV or in movies can also increase children’s fears related to the risk of injury or death for PSP.
  • Children may have difficulty expressing their worries and fears which can impact mental health. Too little information about the PSP job can make children more reliant on TV and social media. Too much information or information that is not age appropriate can also be problematic. Open communication is important to help children process information and express how they are feeling.

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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  

Bochantin, J. E. (2017). Ambulance thieves, clowns, and naked grandfathers: How pses and their families use humorous communication as a sensemaking device. Management Communication Quarterly, 31(2), 278-296. https://doi.org/10.1177/0893318916687650  

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  

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  

Hoven, C. W., Duarte, C. S., Wu, P., Doan, T., Singh, N., Mandell, D. J., Bin, F., Teichman, Y., Teichman, M., Wicks, J., Musa, G., & Cohen, P. (2009). Parental exposure to mass violence and child mental health: The first responder and WTC evacuee study. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 12(2), 95-112. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-009-0047-2  

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  

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  

Roth, S. G., & Moore, C. D. (2009). Work-family fit: The impact of emergency medical services work on the family system. Prehospital Emergency Care, 13(4), 462-468. https://doi.org/10.1080/10903120903144791  

Sommerfeld, A., Wagner, S. L., Harder, H. G., & Schmidt, G. (2017). Behavioral health and firefighters: An intervention and interviews with Canadian firefighters. Journal of Loss & Trauma, 22(4), 307-324. https://doi.org/10.1080/15325024.2017.1284515 


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Military-like influence: Exerting control

Topics: Couples, Family, Mental Health

Controlling behaviours at home

Public safety organizations are ‘military-like’ because they have ranks and a chain of command. They require PSP to obey orders and rely on teamwork and rigorous training. Behaviours and traits that allow PSP to do their jobs well are respected and valued by organizations. However, these behaviours can affect couple and family relationships when they spill over into home life. If a PSP is having a hard time detaching from the job, it might lead to more controlling behaviours at home. What PSP witness on the job can also affect their behaviours at home and cause them to be overprotective of their families. Authoritarian spillover is a term used to describe the carry-over of these controlling behaviours into the home.

Authoritarian spillover: How it happens


The effects of controlling behaviours on families

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References for this page (click to expand)

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  

Badawy, P. J. & Schieman, S. (2021). With greater power comes greater stress? Authority, supervisor support, and work-family strains. Journal of Marriage and Family 83(1):40-56. https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12714 

Cheema, R. (2016). Black and blue bloods: protecting police officer families from domestic violence.  Family Court Review, 54(3), 487-500. https://doi.org/10.1111/fcre.12226  

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  

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  

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  

Sommerfeld, A., Wagner, S. L., Harder, H. G., & Schmidt, G. (2017). Behavioral health and firefighters: an intervention and interviews with Canadian firefighters. Journal of Loss & Trauma, 22(4), 307-324. https://doi.org/10.1080/15325024.2017.1284515  

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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