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Effects of Stress Among Correctional Officers, United States, 2017-2018

Resource Type
Dataset : administrative records data, survey data
  • Griffin, Marie
  • Hepburn, John
Other Title
  • Version 1 (Subtitle)
Publication Date
Publication Place
Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research
Funding Reference
  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice
Free Keywords
Schema: ICPSR
correctional officers; cynicism; depersonalization; depression (psychology); job stress; work attitudes
  • Abstract

    There is a growing body of empirical evidence to suggest (1) that correctional officers are exposed through their work to a number of stressors and, as a result, have a higher level of job-related stress than is found in other occupations, and (2) that stress has a variety of debilitating effects on the medical, behavioral, attitudinal, and emotional well-being of correctional officers. In light of these consistent conclusions, it is important that research extend the current state of knowledge by addressing other important empirical questions. One is the question of how correctional officer stress levels affect the well-being of the officer, as measured in terms of potential (1) attitudinal, (2) emotional and (3) behavioral effects on the officer. A second question is the extent to which correctional officer stress levels affect the well-being of the prison organization. Research in non-correctional settings finds that increased levels of a worker's stress are significantly related to three dimensions of that worker's behaviors in the organization: (1) task performance, (2) organizational citizenship behaviors, and (3) counterproductive work behaviors. A third question explored is the degree to which the individual-level effects of stress mediate the organizational-level effects of stress. Finally, a fourth question to be explored is the extent to which officer stress levels are correlated with, and can be predicted by, data routinely collected by the state department of corrections, such as performance evaluations, workplace injuries, overtime, grievances, and incident reports.
  • Abstract

    The purpose of this study is two-fold: 1) to address how stress affects the well-being of correctional officers in terms of emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral consequences, and 2) to investigate how individual officer stress impacts the well-being of the prison organization in terms of the officer's task performance, organizational citizenship, and counterproductive workplace behaviors.
  • Methods

    This cross-sectional study consists of two phases. In Phase 1, researchers conducted face-to-face quantitative interviews with sampled correctional officers. At the end of the interview, each officer was asked for permission to allow the research team to obtain a limited amount of information about that officer's work history from the agency's administrative and human resources data files. Phase 2 attempted to confirm the findings from Phase 1 using a new sample of officers.
  • Methods

    Demographic variables included age, gender, race, marital status, parental status, education, length of employment, and veteran status. The independent variable stress was measured by scales of life stress (external health, financial, and interpersonal problems) and work stress (feeling uptight, under pressure while at work). Individual-level outcome variables were grouped as attitudinal, behavioral, and emotional effects. Attitudinal: job commitment and satisfaction, perceived support from administration, intent to leave job; Behavioral: physical symptoms such as chest pains, stomach pains, trouble sleeping, etc.; Emotional: depressive symptoms, emotional exhaustion, depersonalization (sympathy/indifference to coworkers, distance); Organizational-level outcomes variables included self-rated task performance (attention to detail, punctuality, accomplishments), citizenship (going above and beyond responsibilities, mentorship), and counterproductive workplace behaviors (bullying, napping at work, property destruction).
  • Methods

    ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection: Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes..
  • Methods

    Presence of Common Scales: Employee burnout (Maslach and Jackson, 1981; Leiter and Maslach, 1988; Maslach, Schaufeli, and Leiter, 2001) Depression (Gayman and Bradley, 2013; Perlin, Menaghan, Lieerman, and Mullan, 1981) Emotional exhaustion and cynicism/depersonalization (Bakker and Heuven, 2006; Gayman and Bradley, 2013; ter Doest et al., 2006) Organizational commitment (Mowday 1979) Job satisfaction (Cranny, Smith and Stone, 1992; Lambert, Hogan and Barton, 2002) Organizational Citizenship Behavior (Lee and Allen 2002) Counterproductive Workplace Behaviors (O'Brien and Allen 2008)
  • Methods

    Response Rates: For officer interviews: Massachusetts: Phase 1: 259/335, or 77.3% Phase 2: 249/330, or 75.4% Texas: Phase 1: 256/261, or 97.7% Phase 2: 319/329, or 96.9% Totals: Phase 1: 515/596, or 86.2% Phase 2: 568/659, or 86.2% For administrative data, obtained only for Phase 1 interview Subjects: 487 of the 515 (94.56%) officers interviewed in Phase 1 consented to permit retrieval of administrative data.
  • Abstract


    • DS0: Study-Level Files
    • DS1: Phase One Interview Data File
    • DS2: Phase Two Interview Data File
Temporal Coverage
  • Time period: 2017--2018
  • 2017 / 2018
Geographic Coverage
  • Massachusetts
  • Texas
  • United States
Sampled Universe
Correctional officers employed in Massachusetts and Texas state prisons during the study period. Smallest Geographic Unit: None
In Phase 1, 515 correctional officers were interviewed, 259 within Massachusetts and 256 within Texas. Prisons were selected for the study based on convenience (distance between prison and research site). In Massachusetts, individuals were sampled for the study via simple random sampling of all line officers working at the eight state prisons. In Texas, individuals were sampled via stratified proportionate random probability sampling across ten state prisons. In Phase 2, a new sample of officers was selected, excluding any that had been previously sampled. Disproportionate random stratified sampling was used; individuals were stratified by length of tenure (7 years and under vs. 7+ years) and security level (high vs. other).
Collection Mode
  • face-to-face interview
Funding institution(s): United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2014-IJ-CX-0026).
This study is freely available to the general public via web download.
Alternative Identifiers
  • 37329 (Type: ICPSR Study Number)

Update Metadata: 2020-08-27 | Issue Number: 1 | Registration Date: 2020-08-27

Griffin, Marie; Hepburn, John (2020): Effects of Stress Among Correctional Officers, United States, 2017-2018. Version 1. Version: v1. ICPSR - Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research. Dataset.