A qualitative study exploring participant perceptions of familial connectedness following medically boarded police officers’ experience of a work-related traumatic event.
Sunder, Kiara Suren.
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Considering the nature of police work and the deleterious effects it has on police officers, limited research has been published regarding the dynamics of social support (particularly family support) with employees in high risk professions. This study focused on exploring the perceptions that participants (husbands/wives) of police officers have about the police officers’ functioning in both the pre- and post-medical-boarding phases, as well as the participants’ perceptions about the family’s state of connectedness in the relative phases. The study sample was comprised of eight participants who were husbands/wives of medically-boarded police officers in the Durban area. A total of eight semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight participants, comprising of seven females and one male. A qualitative methodological approach was utilized as it allowed for in-depth interviews to explore participants’ perceptions of police officers’ functioning and connectedness. A non-probability sampling method was employed whereby the sample was selected using purposive sampling. The sample was accessed via a private psychiatrist and permission was sought respectively from: the practitioner, police officer and the participant. The data transcripts were analyzed thematically in order to identify commonalities and variances among the responses of participants. The Family Adjustment and Adaptation Response Model (FAAR) was used as the theoretical framework in guiding the analysis of data. Specific constructs of the model were highlighted in order to conceptualize the data. The results of this study highlighted the collective influence of the participant, police officer, family and South African Police services on the overall connectedness of families in both the pre- and post-boarding phases. In the pre-boarding phase connectedness was deemed adequate and the main demands faced whereby police officers related to logistically managing work commitments. In the post- boarding phase there was decreased connectedness and ramifications for participants and police officers. Participants directed their capabilities towards exercising support in relation to the police officers’ post-trauma reactions (psychological and emotional). A number of clear strategies for improved familial connectedness emerged from the results of this study. As such, recommendations were suggested, followed by recommendations for future research and an appraisal of the limitations of this study were provided.