Relationship distress in partners of combat veterans: the role of partners' perceptions of posttraumatic stress symptoms.Behav Ther. 2012 Jun; 43(2):416-26.BT
Partners of combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder report elevated relationship and psychological distress, but little is known about the mechanisms by which such distress develops. In two separate samples, we examined partners' perceptions of veterans' PTSD symptoms, with a specific focus on the simultaneous associations of partners' distress with their perceptions of veterans' reexperiencing, withdrawal/numbing, and hyperarousal symptom clusters. The first sample consisted of 258 partners of Operation Enduring- and Iraqi Freedom-era veterans who completed questionnaires. The second sample consisted of 465 partners of Vietnam-era veterans who completed interviews as part of the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study. In both samples, path analyses revealed that, when examined simultaneously, partners' perceptions of withdrawal/numbing symptoms were associated with greater distress, but perceptions of reexperiencing symptoms were unrelated to psychological distress and significantly associated with lower levels of relationship distress. Given the cross-sectional nature of the data in both samples, there are multiple plausible interpretations of the results. However, the pattern is consistent with an attributional model of partner distress, whereby partners are less distressed when symptoms are more overtly related to an uncontrollable mental illness. Potential clinical implications are discussed.