Emotional Wellbeing and Cognitive Appraisals Among Law Enforcement Exposed to Child Sexually Explicit Materials

Jennifer E. O’Brien, Ateret Gewirtz-Meydan, Kimberly J. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The cognitive appraisals of police investigators and forensic examiners working with child sexually explicit material (CSEM) may impact the level of distress they experience and its impact on holistic wellbeing. In the current study, we use an exploratory sequential mixed method design integrating quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Survey data were collected from 500 police investigators, forensic examiners, and others connected with the criminal justice system from across the United States; 258 of them also provided in-depth qualitative data. A principal components analysis uncovered initial components and latent probabilities, which were subsequently enriched with qualitative data coded using a grounded-theory approach. Results indicate that cognitive appraisals of law enforcement who investigate CSEM can be seen on two main axes: emotional vs cognitive and victim vs system. Cognitive-based and system-focused appraisals were associated with better wellbeing. Implications for officer wellness and future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-439
Number of pages20
JournalCriminal Justice and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology.


  • CSEM
  • child sexual abuse material
  • cognitive appraisals
  • principal components analysis


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