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Publication Briefs

PTSD Associated with Poorer Couple Adjustment and Increased Parenting Challenges among Male OIF National Guard Troops


  • Increases in PTSD symptoms were associated with poorer couple adjustment and greater perceived parenting challenges one year post-deployment among male National Guard troops who had served in Iraq (OIF). Further, PTSD symptoms predicted parenting challenges independently of their impact on couple adjustment.
  • PTSD was associated with higher levels of alcohol use, but alcohol use was not significantly associated with couple adjustment or parenting. Deployment injury also was independently associated with increased PTSD symptoms.
  • Findings suggest that symptoms of PTSD may exert their influence at multiple levels within the family, making transitions from combat to home life even more complicated. This highlights the importance of investigating and intervening to support parenting and couple-adjustment among combat-affected National Guard families, who often lack the support available to active duty families via the military base community.

Combat deployment is particularly stressful for National Guard/Reserve (NG/R) troops, who tend to be older, partnered with dependent children, and less prepared for prolonged separations from family. Moreover, rates of positive screening for PTSD symptoms more than doubled among NG/R troops between immediate post-deployment screening (12.7%) and re-evaluation six months later (24.5%). PTSD is a key risk factor for family distress following deployment, yet no studies have examined these relationships among NG/R troops – or in the context of current military conflicts. This study examined associations among combat-related PTSD symptoms, parenting behaviors, and couple adjustment among 468 male National Guard troops who had served in Iraq (OIF) between 3/06 and 7/07. Investigators analyzed surveys conducted one month before returning home from OIF deployment and one year post-deployment. At one year, participants also completed self-report measures of parenting, couple adjustment, quality of parent-child relationship, alcohol use, and items assessing injuries sustained while deployed.


  • This study cohort may not be representative of all Army National Guard brigades, and results may not generalize to other military components (e.g., active duty service members, who are more likely to be younger, unpartnered, and without children).
  • Investigators relied on self-report measures of parenting and PTSD, thus were unable to gather multi-informant data (i.e. from spouses and children) or multi-method data (e.g., observational measures of parenting).

This study was partly funded by HSR&D (RRP 08-252). Dr. Polusny is part of HSR&D’s Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research in Minneapolis, MN.

PubMed Logo Gewirtz A, Polusny M, DeGarmo D, Khaylis A, and Erbes C. Post-traumatic Stress Symptoms among National Guard Soldiers Deployed to Iraq: Associations with Parenting Behaviors and Couple Adjustment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology October 2010;78(5):599-610.

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HSR requires notification by HSR-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR published articles. Visit the HSR citations database for a complete listing of HSR articles and presentations.

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