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The relationship between stress, strain and social capital

Martin Gächter (University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria)
Davd A. Savage (Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)
Benno Torgler (Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 23 August 2011




The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship of social capital with the negative externalities associated with stress, or the psychological and physiological strains experienced by police officers.


Using data collected in 1999 from a survey of Baltimore Police officers designed to examine questions about the relationship between police stress and domestic violence in police families and using multivariate regression analysis, the paper focuses on five different proxies for stress and strain, and two proxies for social capital and conducting several robustness checks.


Results show that an increase in social capital is significantly correlated to a decrease in the level of strain, in the psychological, physical, burnout and health areas.

Research limitations/implications

While this study examines the social capital/strain relationship with US officers, more research is needed, as these findings may not extrapolate well into other national settings. It may also be interesting to further explore sub‐cultures within departments. Additionally, the data may be dated and, as major changes and events have occurred since the survey, a newer study of officers would be needed to observe whether these changes have had significant impact.

Practical implications

From a policy perspective, the findings suggest that stress reduction programs should actively engage employees to build stronger social networks.


This study comprehensively examines the ability of social capital at negating the impacts of strains, and significantly reduces the impact of major trauma events. This paper adds to the literature as there are few multivariate analyses of the social capital/strain relationship.



Gächter, M., Savage, D.A. and Torgler, B. (2011), "The relationship between stress, strain and social capital", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 34 No. 3, pp. 515-540.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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