Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP, Chair, Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP, Chairperson

Second Advisor

Petra Kottsieper, PhD

Third Advisor

Ralph Fretz, PhD


The correctional setting is often dangerous and unpredictable. Correctional officers have the unique and often dangerous charge of overseeing a very volatile population. The job of a correctional officer can be very stressful and often contributes to emotional, physiological, and psychological distress. Correctional officers may be exposed to violence either directly or indirectly. One of the psychological reactions most commonly associated with violence is the development of trauma. This type of traumatic response may be triggered by direct or indirect exposure to traumatic stimuli. The focus of this study was to identify variables associated with secondary traumatic responses among correctional officers. Several variables were hypothesized as correlates of vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress. These included job satisfaction, number of hours in direct contact with inmates, personal support, organizational support, level of perceived job related danger, number of violent incidents observed, and number of times personally assaulted by an inmate. The Impact of Events Scale–Revised was used to measure experiences of vicarious trauma. The Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale was also use to evaluate secondary traumatic stress as a criterion. Three of the proposed hypotheses were partially supported. Correctional officers who reported having more direct contact with inmates had higher scores on the STSS. In addition, correctional officers who reported having higher levels of job satisfaction scored lower on the STSS. Correctional officers who reported having higher levels of emotional support scored lower on the IES–R. Based upon these findings correctional officers are vulnerable for experiences of vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress.