General strain theory, exposure to violence, and suicide ideation among police officers: A gendered approach



Stephen A. Bishopp, Denise Paquette Boots

Journal of Criminal Justice

16 October 2014



•Depression and anger fully mediate strain in the combined gender model.

•Female-only models showed no direct relationship between strain and suicide ideation.

•Strain had a direct and positive effect on suicide ideation in male officers.

•Depression and anger significantly increased the odds of suicide ideation for females.

•Gender appears to matter when considering mechanisms that impact suicide and strain.



A wide body of research has demonstrated that police officers are profoundly affected by their exposure to violence and the traumatic events viewed commonly as part of their job duties. Faced with stress, officers learn to adapt by incorporating coping techniques.


The current study utilizes Agnew's general strain theory to explain occurrences of the most dangerous maladaptive coping technique: suicide ideation. Male and female police officers from three large cities in Texas were surveyed (n = 1,410).


The present study utilizes logistic regression techniques, finding that strain has a positive and direct effect on male officers suicide ideation risk, but not for female police. Moreover, depression has a mediating effect on strain and suicide ideation for both genders.


Some critical differences in suicide ideation outcomes between male and female police officers are reported. Policy implications concerning retention and recruiting are also discussed.









Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee