An examination of PTSD symptoms and relationship functioning in U.S. soldiers of the Iraq War over time

Authors

  • Christopher R. Erbes,

    Corresponding author
    1. Mental Health Service Line, Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
    2. Department of Psychiatry, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
    • Mental Health Team L, Minneapolis VA Health Care System, One Veterans Drive (116A6), Minneapolis, MN 55417.
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  • Laura A. Meis,

    1. Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
    2. Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research, Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
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  • Melissa A. Polusny,

    1. Department of Psychiatry, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
    2. Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research, Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
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  • Jill S. Compton,

    1. Department of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA
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  • Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth

    1. Department of Family Studies, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA
    2. Military Family Research Institute, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA
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  • This research was supported by grants from the Military Family Research Institute (Grant 2007 1325-000) and the Minnesota Medical Foundation (Grant 3662-9227-06). This material is the result of work supported with resources and the use of facilities at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Minneapolis, MN. The authors would like thank Amy Moran and Maricar Tan for their assistance with subject recruitment.

    The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Abstract

We examined associations between overall posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, symptom clusters of PTSD (reexperiencing, avoidance, dysphoria, and arousal), and relationship adjustment cross sectionally and longitudinally using self-report measures from a dyadic sample of U.S. National Guard soldiers from the Iraq war and their intimate partners (N = 49 couples). Results of multilevel modeling revealed that Time 1 PTSD symptom severity significantly predicted lower relationship adjustment as rated by partners at Time 2 after controlling for baseline relationship adjustment (β = −.20, p = .025). Total PTSD symptoms did not significantly predict soldiers' ratings of relationship adjustment at Time 2. For soldiers, the PTSD symptom cluster of dysphoria was uniquely and significantly related to relationship adjustment ratings both at Time 1 and at Time 2, controlling for Time 1 adjustment. For partners, none of the soldiers' PTSD symptoms clusters was uniquely associated with Time 1 relationship adjustment or with change in adjustment over time. In contrast, findings regarding the effect of relationship adjustment on changes in PTSD over time found that Time 1 relationship adjustment was not associated with changes in PTSD symptoms at Time 2.

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