Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Military Families Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) involves numerous symptoms for sufferers, but the family members around that individual must endure those symptoms as well. Individuals living within the home of a returning military member may struggle with the symptoms associated with the military member’s illness. The individual with the illness often exhibits symptomatic withdrawal from his family (American Psychiatric Association, 2000), which can have long lasting effects on the relationships within the family unit.
The impulsiveness and over-excitability associated with PTSD could also play a role in the family dynamics (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). The purpose of this literature review is to address the following research question: What effects do the symptoms of PTSD cause for children and spouses of individuals diagnosed with the disorder? The hypothesis to be investigated follows: An effect exists on families from PTSD in military members. Numerous researchers have studied the family units of individuals with PTSD.
In one study, Allen, Rhoades, Stanley, and Markman (2010) attempted to measure the stress incurred on a marital relationship in relation to recent deployments and diagnosis of PTSD. The levels of numerous aspects of the marital relationship were examined with couples in which the male partner had a positive diagnosis of PTSD. While this study showed the sample population attributed certain marital discords to PTSD, the sample may not represent the military population at large. Indeed, the authors of this study divulged a flaw in the sampling process as the inability to fully represent all military couples.
The couples chosen in this sample offered to participate in a marital research project, rather than having a sample randomly selected. Another important study of relationships involving PTSD was conducted by Gewirtz, Polusny, DeGarmo, Khaylis, and Erbes (2010). In this study, the main focus was on the symptoms of PTSD directly affecting two aspects of marriage: parenting and relationship adjustment (Gerwirtz et. al. , 2010). These authors affirmed that a positive correlation exists between marital discord and PTSD symptoms in returning military members.
The results, however, may not be fully accurate across the greater population as the sample was selected from a single brigade negating the ability to sample randomly sample. Another factor in relationships with a member with a positive diagnosis of PTSD is intimate partner violence. Finley, Baker, Pugh, and Peterson (2010) provided case studies to support their thesis of a positive correlation between PTSD and intimate partner violence. In this study, researchers annotated numerous instances of aggressive behaviors between partners during dissociative and parasomniac episodes.
This study incorporated 19 case studies to draw conclusions about violence against partners. Although this limited sampling narrows the ability to generalize these results, the findings show a need to further investigate this area of study. These factors could have distressing effects on the psychological well-being of the partners. Renshaw, Rhoades, Allen, Blais, Markman, and Stanley (2010) researched the secondary traumatic stress disorder and general psychological distress occurring in spouses of individuals diagnosed with PTSD.
The findings determined that genuine distress occurred with spouses, but often the spouses were misdiagnosed with secondary traumatic stress disorder. According to the researchers, secondary traumatic stress disorder entails a predetermined set of symptoms, and many of the individuals studied did not meet the criteria for diagnosis. The researchers stated that findings are limited due to the self-report nature of the study which may have caused bias in the results.
Focusing solely on current conflicts would have limited the scope of research; including studies of past wars provide researchers with the ability to compare current trends with past findings. In an earlier study, Jordan, Marmar, Fairbank, Schlenger, Kulka, Hough, and Weiss (1992) looked at the effects of PTSD on families with veterans of the Vietnam War. This particular study showed problems associated with war veterans with PTSD and their immediate family including domestic violence instances.
This study provided a basis for many future studies involving family discord as a result of PTSD symptoms. In line with the study on Vietnam Veterans, Riggs and Riggs (2011) found that PTSD symptoms and the deployment cycle disrupt the attachment and closeness of military families. This study focused on married couples with a parent returning from a war zone. The study does not account for family systems present prior to the deployment, so the sample population may have had marital and family problems without the added problems of the deployment cycle.
In a study on the effects of deployments on the children in military families, Esposito-Smythers, Wolff, Lemmon, Bodzy, Swenson, and Spirito (2011) outlined intervention methods for those children. The researchers explained that children often adapt well to the deployment cycle, but without proper support, these children can struggle to adjust. To prevent or repair adjustment problems, cognitive-behavioral therapy was suggested by the authors. The problems associated with the deployment cycle are compiled by Card, Bosch, Casper, Wiggs, Hawkins, Schlomer, and Borden (2011).
In that meta-analysis, the authors presented an extensive compilation of unique problems associated with deployment for children. The authors attested that nearly one-third of all returning military members exhibit PTSD symptoms. This presents unique problems for families during the reintegration process including depression. The authors contended that a limited amount of study material exists for a full examination of the problems in these children (Card, et al. , 2011). Problems associated with military families are not all centered on PTSD.
On top of the stress involving a positive diagnosis of PTSD, military families struggle with numerous other unique stressors on family dynamics. Park (2011) outlined these stressors in a brief synopsis of current military lifestyle trends. The author attested that although military families are resilient, members are at higher risk of mental health disorders. Although the author did not specifically perform a research project, the findings were drawn from prior works on the subject matter. Another group sought to explain the special stressors involved with members in a military family.
Sheppard, Malatras, and Israel (2010) sought to discover the exact problems arising from military service in relation to family members. The authors asserted that previous studies limited the scope of study to detrimental levels. In this study, the authors proposed that new research must be conducted to account for the increased numbers of families involved in the military process. Conclusion The aim of this literature review was to answer the following research question: What effects, are experienced by family members of individuals with combat related PTSD?
The initial hypothesis—effects are experienced by family members—was supported by current research. The information discussed shows common problems with family members throughout the different studies. The findings of these studies generally concluded that family members of individuals with PTSD face substantial struggles. The prevailing research found that intimate partner violence occurs in the homes of individuals with a positive diagnosis of PTSD. The current findings in these studies provide a starting point for future research.
The studies from prior conflicts show that these problems span numerous years, and the results prove more research is needed to develop new therapies and treatment plans for these families. A focus should be made on determining appropriate family therapy plans to incorporate children into the therapeutic process. References Allen, E. S. , Rhoades, G. K. , Stanley, S. M. , & Markman, H. J. (2010). Hitting home: Relationships between recent deployment, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and marital functioning for Army couples. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(3), 280-288. doi:10. 037/a0019405 American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed. , Text Revision). Washington, DC: APA. Card, N. A. , Bosch, L. , Casper, D. M. , Wiggs, C. , Hawkins, S. , Schlomer, G. L. , & Borden, L. M. (2011). A meta-analytic review of internalizing, externalizing, and academic adjustment among children of deployed military service members. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(4), 508-520. doi:10. 1037/a0024395 Currie, S. L. , Day, A. , & Kelloway, E. (2011). Bringing the troops back home: Modeling the post-deployment reintegration experience.
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