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Adverse childhood experiences, mental health, and relationship satisfaction in military couples

APA Citation:

Khalifian, C. E., Bosch, J., Knopp, K., Delay, C., Sohn, M. J., & Morland, L. A. (2022). Adverse childhood experiences, mental health, and relationship satisfaction in military couples. Journal of Family Psychology, 36(4), 630-635. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000952

Abstract Created by REACH:

Emotional transmission theories suggest that individuals’ emotions related to traumatic experiences impact the feelings and behaviors of their intimate partners. This study examined the association among adverse childhood experiences (ACEs; i.e., physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction before age 18), relationship satisfaction, and mental health symptoms (i.e., depressive symptoms and posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD] symptoms) among 103 Veterans and their partners (N = 206). Intimate partners were differentiated based on gender and Veteran status (i.e., Veteran vs. partner). ACEs were generally related to poorer outcomes, with some differences based on gender and Veteran status.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches
Air Force
Marine Corps

Military Affiliation:


Subject Affiliation:

Spouse of service member or veteran


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


Cross sectional study
Quantitative Study


Khalifian, Chandra E., Bosch, Jeane, Knopp, Kayla, Delay, Christophe, Sohn, Min Ji, Morland, Leslie A.


Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have been found to influence one’s own mental health and relationship satisfaction in adulthood; however, the association between one’s own ACEs and their partner’s individual and relationship functioning has not been explored. Veterans (n = 103) and their significant others (S-O; total N = 206) completed assessments on ACEs, depression, relationship satisfaction, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptom severity as part of a baseline assessment in a treatment outcome study for veterans with PTSD and their S-Os. Actor Partner Interdependence Moderation Modeling (APIMoM) was conducted. Higher ACE score was positively related to PTSD for all participants. Female S-O’s ACE score was positively related to their own depression, and male S-Os reported higher depression and lower relationship satisfaction when their partners reported a higher ACE score. Surprisingly, female veterans experienced higher relationship satisfaction when their S-Os reported a higher ACE score. ACEs are related differently to one’s own and one’s partner’s mental health and relationship satisfaction and should be assessed when conducting couple’s interventions. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved)

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

American Psychological Association

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, CEK
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, CKE


childhood adversity, couples, major depression, mental health, military families, military veterans, partners, posttraumatic stress disorder, relationship satisfaction

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Research Summary

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