Mar. 18th 2023 Scientific papers

Prospective effects of peer support and gender roles on the mental health and work functioning of child protection workers exposed to potentially traumatic events

Background: Child protection workers (CPWs) are regularly exposed to potentially traumatic events (PTEs), especially, aggressive behaviors from the service users. Some studies show that peer support may reduce the negative impacts of exposure to aggression. Beyond spontaneous peer support, peer helpers can be trained to support their colleagues within a more structured process. Peer helpers have a deep understanding of the challenges that are faced by workers in their organizations. For this reason, they are in an ideal position to foster trust and openness on the part of the workers who have been exposed to a PTE.

Objectives: This study aimed to evaluate the effects of a peer support program on the mental health and work functioning of CPWs exposed to a PTE, while considering the moderating effect of gender roles.

Participants and setting:

  • Participants were recruited in two youth social services centers (YSS) in Canada and assessed one month (n = 176), two months (n = 168), six months (n = 162), and 12 months (n = 161) following exposure to a PTE.

Three groups were formed:

  • workers from the first YSS who received peer support (intervention group),
  • workers from the first YSS who did not receive peer support (first control group),
  • workers from the second YSS where no peer support program was available (second control group).

Methods: Linear mixed models were used to compare the three groups across time.


  • The intervention group did not differ from the control groups on any outcome variables at any time points.
  • Gender roles did not moderate any effect.
  • However, compared with the first control group, the intervention group scored lower on masculine gender roles, suggesting that lower masculinity may facilitate help seeking behaviors.


  • The results point toward the need to improve the peer support intervention, to complement this intervention with other forms of support, and to promote organizational changes that would favor the workers’ well-being and facilitate their recovery following a PTE.

Authors :

Stéphane Guay, Alexandre Lemyre, Rocio Guédé, Robert-Paul Juster , Steve Geoffrion (2023)

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