Behind the Brotherhood: Rewards and Challenges for Wives of Firefighters


*Cheryl Regehr is a Professor at the University of Toronto—Social Work, 246 Bloor Street West, Ontario, Canada M5A1S1 ( Gina Dimitropoulos is at the University of Toronto. Elaine Bright is at the University of Toronto. Sharon George is at the University of Toronto. Joscelyn Henderson is at the University of Toronto.


Abstract: Support of family is paramount to reducing the impact of highly stressful work on firefighters. Yet the degree of stress encountered by the family members, particularly spouses, resulting from ongoing job demands and exposure to traumatic situations is unclear. This qualitative study examined the effects of emergency service work on spouses of firefighters. While participants were highly supportive and proud of their spouse's work, they nevertheless encountered several challenges. Specific areas of challenge were (a) the effects of shift work on family life, (b) the transfer of firefighters’ reactions to dangerous and traumatic events to family, and (c) the social atmosphere associated with the fire service. Suggestions for the development of support services for firefighters and their families are offered.