(334) 844-3299
Detailed Record
Share this Article

Early and recent military and nonmilitary stressors associated with posttraumatic stress symptoms among military service members and their spouses

APA Citation:

Sullivan, K. S., Park, Y., Richardson, S., Cederbaum, J., Stander, V., & Jaccard, J. (2023). Early and recent military and nonmilitary stressors associated with posttraumatic stress symptoms among military service members and their spouses. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 36(5), 943-954. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22958

Abstract Created by REACH:

This study examined relationships among Service members’ and their spouse’s childhood maltreatment, recent stressors (nonmilitary and military), and both spouses’ posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). Data from 3,314 military couples who participated in the Millennium Cohort Family Study reflected on their experiences of childhood maltreatment, nonmilitary stressors and military stressors occurring within the last year, and PTSS in the past month. Overall, Service members’ and their spouses’ childhood maltreatment was the most salient factor linked with their own PTSS. Child maltreatment also amplified the association between nonmilitary stressors (e.g., a death in the family) and PTSS.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member
Spouse of service member or veteran


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


Sullivan, Kathrine S., Park, Yangjin, Richardson, Sabrina, Cederbaum, Julie, Stander, Valerie, Jaccard, James


Disparities in posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) have been observed among military service members (SMs) and spouses (SPs) compared to their civilian peers, but exposure to military stressors does not adequately explain observed differences. Using a stress process framework, this study considered the associations between early and recent military and nonmilitary stressors and PTSS among SMs and SPs. We analyzed data from 3,314 SM–SP dyads in the Millennium Cohort and Millennium Cohort Family Studies. Accounting for covariates, multiple linear regression and dominance analyses were employed to consider the effects of SM and SP childhood maltreatment, recent nonmilitary stressors (e.g., financial difficulties), and recent military stressors (e.g., deployment) on their own and their partner's self-reported PTSS. For both SMs and SPs, childhood maltreatment was the strongest predictor of their own PTSS, followed by nonmilitary stressors. Couple crossover dynamics were evident as SP maltreatment and nonmilitary stressors significantly predicted SM PTSS, and SM maltreatment predicted SP PTSS. Maltreatment also multiplied the effects of SM, product term B = 0.92, p = .031, and SP, product term B = 0.75, p = .004, nonmilitary stressors. The findings emphasize the essential role of exposure to early adversity in understanding PTSS among SMs and SPs, as childhood maltreatment strongly predicted PTSS and exacerbated the effects of other stressors on PTSS. Providers should assess for early adversity among both SMs and SPs and consider the provision of services at the couple level given the potential for the transmission of stress within couples.

Publication Type:

REACH Publication


posttraumatic stress symptoms, couples, military-related stressors

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  November 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