Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Criminal Justice

Degree Program

Criminal Justice, PhD

Committee Chair

Swartz, Kristin

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Keeling, Deborah

Committee Member

Keeling, Deborah

Committee Member

Campbell, Bradley

Committee Member

Denney, Andrew

Author's Keywords

correctional officers; PTSD; mental health; corrections; trauma; coping mechanisms


The current study examines correctional officer coping mechanisms and whether they impact the likelihood of an officer developing PTSD symptoms. Additionally, research questions focus on whether problem-focused or emotion-focused coping mechanisms moderate the relationship between exposure to trauma and PTSD symptoms. The data for the current dissertation comes from a larger National Institute of Justice grant determined to examine mindfulness as an intervention for correctional officer PTSD within Kentucky Department of Corrections. Approximately 245 officers from seven adult institutions participated in the study and completed a lengthy survey. Main variables for the current analysis include two dependent variables, both of which measure PTSD symptoms. Key independent variables come from a coping assessment, the Violence, Injury, and Death Exposure Scale (VIDES), and controls such as age, gender, marital status, security level, correctional experience, and rank are also included. Results indicated that there were multiple problem- and emotion-focused coping mechanisms directly related to PTSD symptoms among officers. Analyses revealed only one coping mechanism, denial, significantly moderated the relationship between exposure to trauma and PTSD symptoms as reported in one PTSD assessment. Implications and directions for future research are also discussed.