Spillover of stress in a sample of married policemen.
The present study examined the relationships between the emotional effects of chronic stress at work (burnout) and the quality of family interactions. A systemic approach was adopted, leading to the use of the concept of spillover to describe the transmission of effects across the work-home interface. The relationship between burnout and family life was expected to be moderated by frequency of coping strategies and by size of social support network. Data was gathered from questionnaires distributed to married policemen and their wives in 13 stations and units in the Natal Midlands region of the SAPS. The fmal sample consisted of 84 policemen and 74 of their wives. The data was analyzed using Pearson product-moment correlation, stepwise multiple regression, non-parametric tests, and content analysis of the free comment part of the questionnaire. The results of the study showed this sample of policemen to be experiencing relatively high levels of burnout and this was manifest particularly in terms of a diminished sense of personal accomplishment and feelings of negative self-evaluation. Specific sources of discontent for the policemen were frustrations with an unresponsive police hierarchy, low wages, and disruption to family life caused by overtime and irregular hours. Further results showed that those policemen experiencing the highest frequencies of emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation were more likely to bring their work-related strain home with them in the form of upset and angry feelings, physical exhaustion, and complaints about problems at work. This process of Work-to-Home Spillover significantly predicted Quality of Family Life for the wives of such policemen. No moderator effects were shown for coping or social support, although those policemen with greater numbers of supporters were also more likely to experience a greater sense of personal accomplishment. These results were discussed in terms of the burnout and spillover literature, and were evaluated with due regard for the present socio-political context in South Africa. Recommendations were made pertaining to the provision of psychological services to SAPS members and their families, and to the need to eliminate the stigma attached to using such services.