Friday, January 14, 2011

On Being Mindful, Emotionally Aware, and More Resilient: Longitudinal Pilot Study of Police Recruits

I don't tend to read much research about the study of law enforcement. Consequently, it was with great curiosity that I came across a recent study by a group of researchers at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia.

Dr. Williams--along with Dr. Ciarrochi, who authored another study I recently wrote about on adolescent well-being--examined changes in police recruits between becoming trainees to being "probationary constables." Of the 592 recruits who completed the initial assessment through a Bachelor of Policing course, 60 completed the follow-up measures.

According to the authors, police are encouraged to not show emotions within the law enforcement culture. Research has shown that police become more emotionally detached within 18 months of service. As there's a large body of research suggesting that detachment from emotions can have detrimental consequences to emotional health, the researchers were interested in the interaction of these variables over time.

Perhaps the most striking finding of this study was that police recruits showed an increase in depression and other mental health problems after starting the job. What's really interesting, though, is that officers who were more mindful, less likely to suppress thoughts, and more able to identify feelings, showed smaller increases in depression. Moreover, of the variables measured by the researchers, low mindfulness was the strongest predictor of depression. (This indirectly supports the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy research.) Results suggest that mindfulness and the ability to identify one's feelings may have a protective factor for police recruits.

This study measured dispositional mindfulness. As the authors suggest, it would be really interesting to see if a mindfulness-based intervention may help to foster these abilities in police recruits. There could be significant long-term benefits for law enforcement agencies.

To download a copy of the study, click on the citation below:

Williams, V., Ciarrochi, J., & Deane, F.P. (2010). On Being Mindful, Emotionally Aware, and More Resilient: Longitudinal Pilot Study of Police Recruits. Australian Psychologist, 45(4), 274-282.

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