An exploration of the social service role strain, social service role stress and empowerment of frontline police officers in China

中國基層警察社會服務角色的張力, 壓力和賦權研究

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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  • Xiaohai WANG


Awarding Institution
Award date15 Feb 2011


This study examines the possible relationships between police social service role strain (PSSRS), police social service role stress (PSSRSS), police social service structural empowerment (PSSSE) and police social service psychological empowerment (PSSPE) among frontline police officers in China. Based on theories of role strain, structural empowerment and psychological empowerment, a conceptual model of Police Social Service Role Stress-Strain and Coping is established. This study adopts a two-phase (quantitative and qualitative approaches) sequential explanatory design. In the first phase, a questionnaire is used to collect data from a sample of two hundred frontline community patrol officers in Shenzhen Public Security Bureau (China). After conducting the quantitative analysis, the author uses in-depth interviews to explore the nature of PSSRS, PSSRSS, PSSSE and PSSPE from 12 selected interviewees’ insights. According to the results of the survey and in-depth interviews, the participants report a comparatively high level of PSSRS and PSSRSS, and seem to perceive a low level of PSSSE and have a weak sense of PSSPE. It has been found that there are significantly positive correlations between PSSRSS and PSSRS and negative relationships between PSSSE, PSSPE and PSSRS. The emergence of PSSRSS, PSSSE, PSSPE, PSSRS and their correlations needs to be understood as dependent upon the development of Chinese policing and the Chinese police organization. In reviewing the development of Chinese policing in the pre-reform period, the dual social control (informal and formal) mechanism with emphasis on informal social control followed the mass line of policing and operated very well for social service delivery in China. During the reform era, Chinese policing is characterized by strike-hard campaigns, police professionalization, and police professional ethics which are highly concerned with the emergence of PSSRS and PSSRSS. Many limits of paramilitary-bureaucratic structure in Chinese police organization are closely concerned with respondents’ perception of a low level of PSSSE and PSSPE. The author proposes a model for understanding and coping with PSSRS among frontline police officers. Many suggestions are made for inhibiting the emergence of PSSRSS and improving the empowerment in the police organization.

    Research areas

  • China, Police social work, Police