Where Does Work Stress Come From? A Generalizability Analysis of Stress in Police Officers


Differences among workers and workplace stressors both contribute to perceiving work as stressful. However, the relative importance of these sources to work stress is not well delineated. Moreover, the extent to which work stress additionally reflects unique matches between specific workers and particular job stressors is also unclear. In this study, we use generalizability theory to specify and compare sources of variance in stress associated with police work. US police officers (N = 115) provided ratings of 60 stressors commonly associated with policing duties. Primary and secondary stress appraisal ratings reflected differences among officers in tendencies to generally perceive work stressors as stressful (14–15% officer effect), and also agreement among officers in viewing some stressors as more stressful than others (18–19% stressor effect). However, ratings especially reflected distinct pairings of officers and stressors (38–41% interaction effect). Additional analyses revealed individual differences and stressor characteristics associated with each variance component, including an officer × stressor interaction – compared to officers low in neuroticism, highly neurotic officers provided lower primary appraisal ratings of stressors generally seen as not serious, and also higher primary appraisal ratings of stressors that were seen as serious. We discuss implications of the current approach for the continued study of stress at work.


Psychological Science

Keywords and Phrases

Generalizability Theory; Neuroticism; Police; Stress Management; Stress Prevention; Work Stress

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Document Type

Article - Journal

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© 2012 Routledge, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2012