PTSD and marital satisfaction in military service members: examining the simultaneous roles of childhood sexual abuse and combat exposure

Adam B Miller, Karen E Schaefer, Keith D Renshaw, Rebecca K Blais
Child Abuse & Neglect 2013, 37 (11): 979-85
Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is relatively common and is associated with a multitude of negative outcomes in adulthood, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and lower marital satisfaction. However, CSA has been understudied in military samples. The purpose of the present study was to examine the relative contributions of CSA and combat exposure to PTSD and marital satisfaction. Two hundred eighteen National Guard/Reserve veterans who deployed overseas between 2001 and 2008 completed self-report measures of CSA, marital satisfaction, combat exposure, and PTSD symptom severity. Data were analyzed using linear regression and path analysis to evaluate a comprehensive model including all variables. CSA accounted for unique variance in PTSD symptom severity independent of combat exposure. CSA also had a negative direct association with marital satisfaction, independent of combat exposure and PTSD symptom severity. In contrast, combat exposure had only a negative indirect association with marital satisfaction via PTSD when all variables were examined simultaneously. CSA accounted for unique variance in both PTSD symptom severity and marital satisfaction in this sample of combat veterans. Clinically, results suggest that assessment and treatment of CSA is indicated for military veterans suffering from PTSD. Further, treatment of CSA may improve marital satisfaction, which may positively affect psychological functioning in the veteran.

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