Open Access Thesis
The role of depersonalization is the central focus of this study. A major issue in examining the role of depersonalization is whether the present concept of burnout is an appropriate indicator of bumout for police officers. The commonly accepted conception of burnout is a process of emotional exhaustion that leads to depersonalization, followed by a reduction in work accomplishment. Depersonalization, by this conception, is a symptom of burnout. By definition,depersonalization is the psychological distancing of emotional and psychological trauma in stressful situations—a coping technique.
For police officers, depersonalization acts as a shield of emotional armor to maintain a sense of emotional balance. Depersonalization is a way for police officers to psychologically distance themselves from their emotions and feelings in dealing with the trauma of others. Findings, however, have indicated that depersonalization is playing a dual, paradoxical role, for police officers, as both a coping technique and symptom of burnout occurring at the same time.
An explanation of depersonalization’s duality is the suppression of emotions and feelings that allows police officers to carry out their assigned duties. Over time the suppression of emotions and feelings builds up to cause an imbalance between depersonalization’s positive and negative attributes. Depersonalization still allows police officers to cope with stress, but the negative attributes intensify the positive attributes to where depersonalization becomes symptomatic of burnout. The imbalance occurs; because of depersonalization’s reciprocating tendency, the movement between coping techniques and symptoms of burnout.
Ethnographic interviewing techniques were used to obtain data from six police officers. Domain and componential analysis of the data, and identification of cultural themes, supported the study's hypotheses that depersonalization does play a paradoxical role, is a learned response, and is not a valid indicator of burnout for police officers.
The paradoxical roles of depersonalization led to the formulation of enhanced definitions of burnout and depersonalization more appropriate for the police profession. In redefining burnout and depersonalization, a new model of depersonalization was developed. The definitions and model add another dimensional level to depersonalization where tolerance (coping techniques) and callousness (symptoms of burnout) become terms for depersonalization's positive and negative attributes, respectively.
Year of Submission
Master of Arts
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology
Clemens Bartollas, Chair, Thesis Committee
1 PDF file (viii, 110 pages)
©2000 Michael J. O'Connor
O'Connor, Michael J., "The double edged sword of depersonalization: An examination of depersonalization's role in the police profession" (2000). Dissertations and Theses @ UNI. 747.