Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The mission of the present investigation was to expand the limited body of knowledge regarding stress among rural peace officers. While a number of studies have focused on large, easily sampled departments, the empirical literature evidences neglect toward officers serving rural populations. The present study seeks to ascertain how North Dakota officers compare with other, more urban populations, and what differences may exist between a stratified sample of North Dakota police, sheriffs and Highway Patrol officers.

A randomized sample of 311 North Dakota officers were selected to receive a 300 question anonymous survey questionnaire which assessed personal demographic information in addition to dependent measures such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Revised, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) criteria; the Maslach Burnout Inventory; the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (trait anxiety subscale); and the Police Stress Survey (modified). The 71% response rate yielded 216 usable questionnaires and represents almost 20% of the licensed peace officers in the state. Comparable response rates were obtained from each stratification.

Hypotheses were put forth regarding the support systems available to the officer in both the work environment and home and the mediating effects of these factors on the negative physical and psychological consequences of job stress. Support from the officer's spouse, department and social environment were found to be strongly associated with physical health, chronic anxiety, psychological adjustment, and the perception of severity in occupational stressors. Persons who were satisfied with the support they received were more likely to report better physical health, less PTSD symptomatology, lower levels of anxiety and emotional exhaustion and less stress due to on-the-job stressors than did their counterparts who were not satisfied with their support systems.

The results indicate that North Dakota officers appear generally less stressed by occupational stressors than officers in more urban environments. Furthermore, North Dakota officers seem to cope with stress adaptively as indicated by low divorce rates, a low number of physical health complaints and high levels of personal satisfaction.