Mitigating distress in New Zealand police officers exposed to children's accounts of traumatic experiences : emotion-solving versus problem-solving : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masterate of Arts in Psychology at Massey University, Turitea Campus

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Massey University
Working with children who have been abused can be deleterious. This study examined the impact on state affect after exposure to a child's statement of abuse, assessed which type of solving approach led to less recall of distressing information, and examined which risk factors impacted on state affect and short-term memory tasks. Forty North Island police officers, including a specialised group of forensic interviewers who are trained to interview children who have been abused, participated in this study. Participants showed a decrease in positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA), measured by the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS; Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988), after exposure to one scenario of child abuse. No significant differences on PA and NA were found in relation to whether the scenario of abuse was physical or sexual. Furthermore, no significant differences on the amount of distressing information recalled from the child's statement of abuse were found in those participants who used an emotion-solving approach versus a problem-solving approach. The uniqueness of police work is highlighted, particularly in relation to how they may process distressing information by considering the quality of evidence required to prosecute offenders and recalling details of abuse using criminal offence categories. Limitations of this study are described as well as suggestions for future research directions. Implications for police and forensic interviewing practice are discussed.
Police psychology, Secondary traumatic stress, Adjustment (Psychology), New Zealand Police, Mental health