Perceptions of conflict management, association with mental health and quality of life among Swedish police officers
Police work is a complex line of work, where the individual officer has to handle victims of crime and accidents, crime prevention as well as conflict management and violence. Besides the complex nature of the job, police work has also been deemed as one of the most stressful occupations one can have.
There is today a large body of research that has established the adverse effects of police work with regards to mental health. Meanwhile there are studies that suggest that, upon enrolment, Swedish police students have better mental health than the general population and several personality traits that are conducive to good mental health.
One central hypothesis in this study is that it is not only the stressful and complex nature of police work that effects the police officers’ mental health, but that the seeds for the mental health related issues are sown already during their training to be officers. Not least with regards to their training in conflict management (i.e. weapons and tactics, physical methods and techniques, mental training etcetera).
In Sweden, budding officers 2,5 years of training before graduating. Out of these 2,5 years, 6 months are spent in probationary training, the so called aspiranten. The training to be an officer has a clear inter-disciplinary focus with generic as well as police specific training such as weapons and tactics, conflict management for police officers (including self-defence and arrest techniques, communication etcetera), radio and tactical driving.
The research project at hand is divided in four parts, which will result in four articles for publication in international peer-reviewed journals. In the first part, interviews will be conducted with officers who recently completed their probationary training. The interviews will focus on the officers’ perceptions of conflict management, as well as the training that they have gone through in the subject, from being neophytes to applying their skills on the job. The interviews will also study how the officer’s define the conflict and conflict-management. These interviews will also be used to inform the creation of items for the instrument that is to be developed in the second part of the project. In the second part of the project an instrument will be developed to measure conflict management in connection with personality. The theoretical foundation for the instrument will be researcher C. Robert Cloningers psychobiological theory on personality, with seven moderately heritable dimensions of personality as its base.
In the projects third part, differences in conflict management between experienced officers (more than 2,5 years of service) and officers under probationary training will be examined. The instrument developed in the second part of the project will be used for this. For the fourth and final part of the project, the association of conflict management, mental health and Quality of Life will be examined.