(334) 844-3299
Detailed Record
Share this Article

Traumatic brain injury and relationship distress during military deployment and reunion

APA Citation:

Knobloch, L. K., & Abendschein, B. (2024). Traumatic brain injury and relationship distress during military deployment and reunion. Family Relations, 73(1), 424-440. https://doi.org/10.1111/fare.12849

Abstract Created by REACH:

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI), postconcussive symptoms (e.g., dizziness, sensitivity to noise), and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are relatively common among Service members returning from deployment. Using longitudinal data from 2,585 active-duty Soldiers, this study examined the effects of deployment-acquired TBI, postconcussive symptoms, and PTSD symptoms on changes in relationship distress (i.e., marital distress, marital stress, and family stress) over time. Data were collected 1 month before deployment (T0), 1 month postdeployment (T1), and 9 months postdeployment (T3). Overall, postconcussive and PTSD symptoms assessed at T3 were associated with relationship distress after accounting for predeployment TBI, postconcussive and PTSD symptoms assessed at T0, and deployment-acquired TBI assessed at T1.


Mental health
Physical health

Branch of Service:


Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member


Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Longitudinal Study
Secondary Analysis


Knobloch, Leanne K., Abendschein, Bryan


Objective This study seeks to advance the literature by disentangling the effects of deployment-acquired traumatic brain injury (TBI) from comorbid postconcussive symptoms and PTSD symptoms on relationship distress. Background Because TBI poses challenges to military marriages, understanding the predictors of relationship distress after TBI is important for helping service members cope with the effects of the injury. Method Survey data from the U.S. Army STARRS Pre–Post Deployment Study, collected from 2,585 married service members before and after a combat deployment to Afghanistan, evaluated predictors of relationship distress 9 months after homecoming. Results Deployment-acquired TBI corresponded with more relationship distress controlling for predeployment brain health, but its predictive power was eclipsed by concurrent postconcussive symptoms and concurrent PTSD symptoms. Concurrent PTSD symptoms accounted for twice as much variance in relationship distress than concurrent postconcussive symptoms. Conclusion Targeting and treating comorbid conditions may be essential for supporting military marriages after TBI. Implications: Military command, policymakers, and medical professionals may find value in broadening support services for TBI to include resources addressing postconcussive symptoms, PTSD symptoms, and relationship distress.

Publication Type:

REACH Publication


marital dissatisfaction, military deployment, postconcussive symptoms, PTSD symptoms, relationship distress, traumatic brain injury

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  May 2023

This website uses cookies to improve the browsing experience of our users. Please review Auburn University’s Privacy Statement for more information. Accept & Close