An exploration into the experiences of police officers who investigate child protection cases and secondary traumatic stress

  • Alison MacEachern

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Child protection is an area of Police work that has grown in the last decade, involving Police Officers working in departments that specialise in the investigation of cases of child abuse. Although Police Officers in this field may be at greater risk of experiencing Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS), there remains a paucity of research in this area of policing. Analogies can be drawn to existing research in policing and with social service workers involved in child protection.A mixed methodology was used to conduct the study and involved a self-completion postal questionnaire, followed up by a longitudinal case study of three of the trainee Detective Officers. The questionnaire sample consisted of 63 Detective Officers involved in the investigation of child abuse within the host Police Force, including Detective Constables, Sergeants and Inspectors.The Study found that 51% of the respondents experienced a degree of STS, findings that are suggestive that STS is being experienced by a significant portion of Detective Officers who, as part of their daily duties, investigate child protection cases. The longitudinal case study found that 2 out of the 3 cases indicated that their views and experiences of the symptoms of STS changed mid way through their training.The implications for Police Forces to provide safe working environments and appropriate counselling for employees as a tool to manage stress, to inform practice and from which the basis of reasonable precautions, risk assessments, monitoring and appropriate interventions will be discussed.
    Date of Award2011
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsStrathclyde Police
    SupervisorDivya Jindal-Snape (Supervisor) & Sharon Jackson (Supervisor)


    • Child protection
    • Secondary traumatic stress
    • Police

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