Military-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Intimate Relationship Behaviors: A Developing Dyadic Relationship Model

Authors

  • April A. Gerlock,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Nursing, University of Washington and VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Health Services Research and Development, NW Center of Excellence
    • Address correspondence to April A. Gerlock, School of Nursing, University of Washington and VA Puget Sound Heath Care System, Health Services Research and Development, NW Center of Excellence, P.O. Box 881008, Steilacoom, Seattle, Washington 98388-1008; E-mail: gerlockaprila@comcast.net; april.gerlock@va.gov

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  • Jackie Grimesey,

    1. VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Health Services Research and Development, NW Center of Excellence
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  • George Sayre

    1. VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Health Services Research and Development, NW Center of Excellence and Seattle University
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  • This material is based upon the work supported by the Office of Research and Development, Nursing Research Initiative (NRI 04-040), Department of Veterans Affairs, and from resources and support from the HSR & D NW Center of Excellence, VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, WA.
  • We would like to acknowledge and thank Drs. Anne Ganley, Jeff Edleson, and Patricia Betrus for their assistance in project design and implementation.

Abstract

The protracted conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan and an all-volunteer military has resulted in multiple war zone deployments for many service members. While quick redeployment turnaround has left little time for readjustment for either the service member or family, dealing with the long-term sequelae of combat exposure often leaves families and intimate partners ill-prepared for years after deployments. Using a modified grounded theory approach, digitally recorded couple interviews of 23 couples were purposefully selected from a larger sample of 441 couples to better understand the impact of war zone deployment on the couple. The veteran sample was recruited from a randomly selected cohort of men in treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Overall, it was found when veterans experiencing deployment-related PTSD reenter or start new intimate relationships they may bring with them a unique cluster of interrelated issues which include PTSD symptoms, physical impairment, high rates of alcohol and/or drug abuse, and psychological and physical aggression. These factors contributed to a dynamic of exacerbating conflict. How these couples approached relationship qualities of mutuality, balanced locus of control and weakness tolerance across six axes of caregiving, disability, responsibility, trauma, communication, and community impacted the couple's capacity to communicate and resolve conflict. This dyadic relationship model is used to help inform implications for clinical practice.

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