Psychological contract and occupational stressors among UK police officers

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Birmingham

Principal Researcher

Fazeelat Duran

Level of Research


Project Start Date

October 2014

Research Context

​Psychological contract refers to the perceptions of an employee and their employer regarding their mutual obligations towards each other. This construct is based on “social exchange theory” (Blau, 1964) and is reciprocal in nature (Rousseau, 1990).

Organisations that ensure fulfilment of the psychological contract are able to sustain effective employment relationships. Psychological contract has been shown to impact on employee and employer behaviour and well-being and affects the employee’s intentions regarding whether to resign or stay with an organisation. Policing is identified as one of the most stressful occupations in the world because of organisational, personal and incident-related stressors. Organisational stressors include a heavy workload, staff shortages, poor communication and inadequate support. With more than 126,000 police officers employed in the UK (Home Office, 2015), work-related stress has the potential to be a significant issue for many individuals. There is strong evidence (such as Guest, Isaksson & De Witte, 2010) that psychological contract has significant effects on well-being in many sectors, including commercial, business, educational, and retail. However, there is minimal information about the role of a psychological contract within policing.

Past studies have been mixed: the psychological contract and fairness has been found to be positively associated with organisational citizenship and psychological distress within policing (Chen, Chun-his & Kao, 2012; Noblet, Rodwell & Allisey, 2009), yet other research found that the satisfaction of psychological contract needs did not make a significant contribution to a demand-control-support model in police officers (Rodwell, Nobelet & Allisey, 2011). Interestingly, fairness was a significant predictor of psychological distress in police officers. Both studies were based on policing models from Taiwan and Australia and did not focus on investigating the impacts of psychological contract on the well-being of police officers. The rationale for applying the psychological contract theory in UK policing was to investigate its impact on their well-being because the psychological contract is a useful tool in identifying factors having a negative effect on the well-being of employees (such as Conway & Briner, 2005; Guest et al., 2010; Middlemiss, 2011). The fundamental objective of this research is to investigate how the psychological contract was associated with occupational stress and well-being among police officers.

Research Methodology

​The sample consisted of police officers (n = 127) employed in the UK. The data was collected from any active police officer regardless of the length of service. The officers were asked to complete a self-report on-line survey. The data were analysed using structural equation modelling using Amos.

Interim reports and publications

​Contributions from this study have already contributed to academic knowledge regarding the psychological contract and wellbeing of the police officers in the UK through the following conference presentations:

Duran, F., Woodhams, J., & Bishopp, D. (2017, August 28). Psychological contract violation and police officers wellbeing. Paper presentation at 19th International Conference on Law, Policing and Justice, Paris, France.

Duran, F., Woodhams, J., & Bishopp, D. (2017, June). An interview study of the experiences of police officers in regard to the psychological contract, stressors, and well-being. Poster presented at Centre for Crime, Justice and Policing, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, U.K.

Duran F., Woodhams J., & Bishopp, D. (2017, January 4). Psychological contract fulfilment and occupational stressors in police officers. Paper presentation at Division of Occupational Psychology: British Psychological Society, Liverpool, U.K.

Duran F, Woodhams  J; Bishopp D; "An Interview Study of the Experiences of Police Officers in Regard to Psychological Contract and Wellbeing"; Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology; April 2018

Date due for completion

December 2018
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