Do digital forensic investigators suffer from secondary traumatic stress and if so, do gender, personality and amount of time spent grading indecent material impact on reported symptoms?

The primary aim of this study is to explore protective strategies employed by digital forensic investigators in an effort to reduce the effects of secondary traumatic stress.

Key details

Lead institution
Principal researcher(s)
Paul Gullon-Scott
Police region
North East
Level of research
Project start date
Date due for completion

Research context

The primary aim of this study is to explore the human cost of child abuse investigations and identify protective factors which can be employed by digital forensic investigators in an effort to reduce the effects of secondary traumatic stress (STS), thus increasing well-being in this group. To our knowledge, no study has exclusively explored protective factors and positive coping strategies.

By examining coping strategies and personality traits we may be able to identify which strategies and traits are linked to higher levels of well-being. The study will also explore whether female DFIs experience higher rates of STS and whether personality traits moderate the relationship between gender and exposure to child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

Research methodology

The proposed study will be a cohort correlational cross-sectional design, with the study being conducted at a fixed point in time over a short period. Participants will be selected having been exposed to the variable being measured, and are used to explain the frequency of an effect in a specific population at a given point in time.

This study design is utilised to estimate the relationship between exposure to an effect (secondary traumatic stress), and lends itself to retrospective evaluation using clinically valid measures (Hudson and others, 2005; Levin, 2006) The relationship between the selected variables (gender, length of time exposed to CSAM material, personality traits & coping strategies) will then be examined to explore if there is an association between them (Setia, 2016).

For this study to identify a Pearson’s correlation coefficient of r = .30 (medium effect size) with 80% power (⍺ = .05, two-tailed), G*Power suggests we would require 84 participants (Faul et al., 2009). Participants will be recruited via opportunity sampling which allows for recruitment from a targeted population, in this case, a cohort of DFI’s (Martínez-Mesa and others, 2016).

Research participation

This study is open to all digital forensic investigators, The researcher would like for this information to be shared with DFI's nationwide.  Find out more about taking part in the study.

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