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Job Stress and Dyadic Synchrony in Police Marriages: A Preliminary Investigation

NCJ Number
Family Process Volume: 52 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2013 Pages: 271-283
Date Published
June 2013
13 pages
In this preliminary investigation, 17 male police officers and their non-police wives completed daily stress diaries for 1 week and then participated in a laboratory-based discussion about their respective days.

Despite reports documenting adverse effects of stress on police marriages, few empirical studies focus on actual emotional behaviors of officers and spouses. When officers reported more job stress, they showed less hostility, less synchrony with their wives' hostility, and more synchrony with their wives' affection; their wives showed greater synchrony with officers' hostility and less synchrony with officers' affection. Therefore, for officers, greater job stress was associated with less behavioral negativity, potentially less attunement to wives' negativity, but potentially greater attunement to wives' affection. Perhaps this was a compensatory strategy or attempt to buffer their marriage from stress. These attempts may be less effective, however, if, as the synchrony findings may suggest, wives are focusing on officers' hostility rather than affection. Although it will be important to replicate these results, given the small sample, the findings show that patterns of behavioral synchrony may be a key means to better understand how job stress exacts a toll on police marriages. Conversations were video-recorded and coded for specific emotional behaviors reflecting hostility and affection, which are strong predictors of marital outcome. The study examined association between officers' job stress (per diaries and the Police Stress Survey) and couples/emotional behavior (mean levels and behavioral synchrony) using a dyadic repeated measures design capitalizing on the large number of observations available for each couple (1,020 observations). (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: June 1, 2013