Backing the Blue: Trauma in Law Enforcement Spouses and Couples

Ashley L. Landers, Gina Dimitropoulos, Tai J. Mendenhall, Alison Kennedy, Lindsey Zemanek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: To explore the lived experiences of secondary trauma among partners of law enforcement professionals (LEPs). Background: Stress is a common occurrence for LEPs. Although research suggests that LEPs are directly affected by trauma exposure, few studies focus on the secondary trauma of partners or spouses of LEPs. Method: Utilizing transcendental phenomenological inquiry, in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with a purposeful sample of eight spouses of law enforcement recruited from community groups and police departments. Results: The results revealed three overarching themes of how participants experienced being partnered with an LEP: (a) types of trauma exposure, (b) the ripple impact of trauma, and (c) strength of couples and how they cope with trauma. Conclusion: Findings suggest that spouses are both affected by trauma and serve a supportive role to LEPs following trauma exposure. Because secondary trauma can exacerbate existing difficulties in communication and emotional intimacy within couples' relationships, a greater understanding of the impact of trauma on law enforcement couples may lead to greater resources to help support couples wherein one individual is directly exposed to work-related trauma. Implications: Family professionals should promote healthy responses and coping among law enforcement couples following exposure to traumatic events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-319
Number of pages12
JournalFamily relations
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by an American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Research and Education Foundation Graduate Student Research Award.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 National Council on Family Relations


  • couples
  • law enforcement
  • secondary trauma


Dive into the research topics of 'Backing the Blue: Trauma in Law Enforcement Spouses and Couples'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this