Attachment and Mental Health Symptoms Among U.S. Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans Seeking Health Care Services

Authors

  • Joseph M. Currier,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Clinical Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California, USA
    • Mental Health Service, Memphis Veterans Administration Medical Center, Memphis, Tennessee, USA
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  • Jason M. Holland,

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Nevada, Nevada, USA
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  • David Allen

    1. Mental Health Service, Memphis Veterans Administration Medical Center, Memphis, Tennessee, USA
    2. Department of Psychiatry, University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, Memphis, Tennessee, USA
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  • This material is based upon work supported in part by the Office of Research and Development at the Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center. We are also grateful for the contributions of Dr. Eliyahu Reich and Kenny Llanes on this project.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Joseph M. Currier, Department of Clinical Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary, 180 N. Oakland Ave., Pasadena, CA 91101. E-mail: jcurrier@fuller.edu

Abstract

Attachment theory has become a primary framework for understanding adjustment to traumas. In a convenience sample of 157 U.S. service members from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars seeking health care services at a Veterans Administration (VA) hospital, this study examined (a) the impact of attachment characteristics on several key mental health symptoms in this new generation of veterans, (b) the relative frequencies of prominent attachment styles in the sample, and (c) how these higher order orientations related to study outcomes. First, with demographic and military background factors in the model, attachment-related anxiety and avoidance were each uniquely associated with posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), psychiatric distress, and alcohol misuse, βs = .25 to .60. Second, latent class analysis highlighted the underrepresentation of avoidant veterans of a dismissive type in the sample. Third, of the different possible types of attachment insecurities, veterans with a fearful disorganized orientation were also shown to be particularly vulnerable to PTSS and other problems, even when compared to preoccupied-dependent persons. These findings yield further support for the protective benefit of attachment security, while also suggesting the importance of both attachment anxiety and avoidance in the context of postdeployment adjustment.

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