As police departments and officers across the world take on the task of reducing crime and enhancing public safety, their jobs entail the potential of exposure to events that may be experienced as traumatic. In contrast to the larger literature on negative outcomes of potentially traumatic events (PTEs), there is limited knowledge on the potential for post-traumatic growth (PTG) and how clinicians can promote it, generally and in police officers (Westphal & Bonanno, 2007). Tedeschi and Calhoun (1996), “coined the term posttraumatic growth to describe the experience of positive changes that occur as a result of the struggle with major life crises” (Tedeschi et al., 2015, p. 504). This dissertation sought to understand the possible positive responses police officers have after exposure to PTEs through a systematic review and analysis of the literature. This systematic review reviewed empirical scholarly work that included quantitative publications in peer-reviewed journals and books to examine variables associated with law enforcement officers who have been reported to experience posttraumatic growth. The researcher utilized the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) to ensure a high-quality systematic review (Moher et al., 2015). The researcher used inductive content analysis through process and pattern coding to identify themes from the acquired data. Three themes were abstracted: adaptive coping skills (encompassing themes of coping, experiencing satisfaction, cognitive processing, and experiencing, having, or increasing social support); new beliefs (encompassing themes of finding meaning and system/worldview change); and working through (encompassing the theme of stress/trauma symptoms). Our results highlighted that PTG will not appear without active effort by the officer population. A contribution of this dissertation is that it elucidated factors that clinicians should consider when working with police officers, including those suffering from trauma, and can guide future research with this population.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Posttraumatic growth; Police psychology; Police -- Psychological testing

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Susan Hall