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Predicting marital health from adverse childhood experiences among United States Air Force active-duty personnel

APA Citation:

Cigrang, J., Balderrama-Durbin, C., Snyder, D. K., Parsons, A. M., Lorko, K., Gupta, A., Smith Slep, A. M., Heyman, R. E., Mitnick, D. M., Wijdenes, K. L., & Yahle, C. (2021). Predicting marital health from adverse childhood experiences among United States Air Force active-duty personnel. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/cfp0000207

Abstract Created by REACH:

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as being abused or neglected, experiencing parental divorce or witnessing interparental intimate partner violence (IPV), may put individuals at risk for unhealthy relationships as adults. Using reports from 373 married, active-duty, enlisted Airmen (n = 122 women; n = 251 men), this study examined the potential link between ACEs and couple experiences in adulthood, including couple dysfunction (i.e., relationship distress, dysfunctional communication) and intimate partner violence (i.e., physical aggression). Differences in these patterns across men and women were also considered. ACEs were relatively common across Service members. Women often reported more ACEs and unhealthy relationship patterns than men.



Branch of Service:

Air Force

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member


Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)


Cross-Sectional Study
Quantitative Study


Cigrang, Jeff, Balderrama-Durbin, Christina, Snyder, Douglas K., Parsons, Aleja M., Lorko, Kelsey, Gupta, Avantika, Smith Slep, Amy M., Heyman, Richard E., Mitnick, Danielle M., Wijdenes, Kati L., Yahle, Courtney


Marital dysfunction in military samples demands special scrutiny because of its concurrent and prospective linkages with a broad spectrum of mental and physical health disorders, as well as its demonstrated adverse impact on military readiness. Although previous research has shown higher risk for marital distress and divorce among female service members (SMs), particularly at the enlisted ranks, contributing factors to this elevated risk remain largely undetermined. The present study examined the antecedent contributing influence of exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on current marital health in a sample of 373 early-career active-duty Airmen, as well as the potential moderating effect of sex on the magnitude of adverse impact. Results indicated higher prevalence of ACEs for this military sample compared with a community sample and higher prevalence of ACEs for female SMs compared with their male counterparts. Moreover, findings revealed the relatively greater adverse impact of childhood abuse or neglect for female SMs in increasing their likelihood of both IPV perpetration and victimization. Overall, these findings indicate the importance of screening for both antecedent and concurrent indicators of marital health in military settings and developing brief intervention protocols targeting relationship distress and its comorbid conditions in this population. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

American Psychological Association

Publication Type:

REACH Publication


comorbidity, military families, distress, military duty status, risk factors, Air Force personnel, intimate partner violence, childhood adversity

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Research Summary

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