Posttraumatic stress symptoms among national guard soldiers deployed to Iraq: Associations with parenting behaviors and couple adjustment

  • Gewirtz A
  • Polusny M
  • Degarmo D
 et al. 
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OBJECTIVE: In this article, we report findings from a 1-year longitudinal study examining the impact of change in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms following combat deployment on National Guard soldiers' perceived parenting and couple adjustment 1 year following return from Iraq.

METHOD: Participants were 468 Army National Guard fathers from a brigade combat team (mean age = 36 years; median deployment length = 16 months; 89% European American, 5% African American, 6% Hispanic American). Participants completed an in-theater survey 1 month before returning home from Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment (Time 1) and again 1 year postdeployment (Time 2). The PTSD Checklist-Military Version (PCL-M; Weathers, Litz, Herman, Huska, & Keane, 1993) was gathered at both times, and 2 items assessing social support were gathered at baseline only. At Time 2, participants also completed self-report measures of parenting (Alabama Parenting Questionnaire-Short Form; Elgar, Waschbusch, Dadds, & Sigvaldason, 2007), couple adjustment (Dyadic Adjustment Scale-7; Sharpley & Rogers, 1984; Spanier, 1976), parent-child relationship quality (4 items from the Social Adjustment Scale-Self-Report; Weissman & Bothwell, 1976), alcohol use (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test; Babor, Higgins-Biddle, Saunders, & Monteiro, 2001), and items assessing injuries sustained while deployed.

RESULTS: Structural equation modeling analyses showed that increases in PTSD symptoms were associated with poorer couple adjustment and greater perceived parenting challenges at Time 2 (both at p < .001). Furthermore, PTSD symptoms predicted parenting challenges independent of their impact on couple adjustment.

CONCLUSIONS: Findings highlight the importance of investigating and intervening to support parenting and couple adjustment among combat-affected National Guard families.

Author-supplied keywords

  • couple adjustment
  • military personnel
  • parenting
  • posttraumatic stress symptoms

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  • Abigail H. Gewirtz

  • Melissa A. Polusny

  • David S. Degarmo

  • Anna Khaylis

  • Christopher R. Erbes

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