Age Differences in Secondary Traumatic Stress Levels among Judges and Magistrates in Rift Valley Region, Kenya

Peter Muchemi, John Kanjogu Kiumi


The Judiciary is responsible for fair and efficient administration of justice. Due to adjudication of cases involving traumatised clients, judges and magistrates may get vicariously traumatised and hence suffer secondary traumatic stress (STS) which may impact negatively on their capacity to execute duties effectively. In this regard, this study was set to find out the degree to which this psychological condition was related to age. The study was guided by Constructive Self Development Theory. Using ex-post facto research design, data was collected from 83 judicial officers in Rift Valley Region, Kenya, through a self-administered questionnaire. Collected data was analysed through mean calculations and percentages with respect to nominal scale data while ordinal scale data was analysed by use of inferential statistics, specifically ANOVA, at .05 alpha levels. Analysis task was accomplished through the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) programme, version 22.0. The study established that level of STS associated with traumatising court cases increased with increase in respondents’ age. However, this tendency reversed beyond 50 years of age. Further, the effect of traumatising court cases was more pronounced in intrusive related experiences compared with avoidance and arousal linked experiences. Additionally, a statistically significant difference in regard to experiences of intrusive experiences was established between respondents in 31-35 years and 46-50 years age bracket. A similar observation was found for respondents in 41-45 years and 46-50 years age brackets. This seems to indicate that judicial officers in 46-50 years age range are more likely to suffer from dissociative reactions from thoughts or memories of traumatising court cases. The study is useful to The Judiciary in that it can gain understanding on how traumatizing court cases impacts on officers with different age categories. Hence, the need to sensitize officers on how to identify STS symptoms, in order to take the necessary intervention measures before such symptoms reach a critical stage. Further, the judiciary may consider according more preparation training and counselling to younger officers in order to reduce the risk of developing STS. Finally, scholars may identify investigation pathways they can follow with a view unearthing other factors that can influence the level of STS among judicial officers within and outside Kenya.

Keywords: Arousal, Avoidance, Age, Intrusion, Judicial Officer, STS

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ISSN (Paper)2224-5766 ISSN (Online)2225-0484

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