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Combat exposure, mental health, and relationship functioning among women veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars

APA Citation:

Creech, S. K., Swift, R., Zlotnick, C., Taft, C., & Street, A. E. (2016). Combat exposure, mental health, and relationship functioning among women veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Journal of Family Psychology, 30 (1), 43-51. http://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000145

Abstract Created by REACH:

As women continue to represent a fast-growing segment of the present military and Veteran population, more research regarding their combat exposure is needed. This study examined the impacts of combat exposure, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and alcohol misuse on family, intimate relationship, and parenting functioning of female OEF/OIF/OND Veterans.


Mental health
Substance use

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Subject Affiliation:



Adulthood (18 yrs & older)


Empirical Study
Quantitative Study


Creech, Suzannah K., Swift, Robert, Zlotnick, Caron, Taft, Casey, Street, Amy E.


This study examined associations between warzone exposures to combat with postdeployment relationship and family functioning in 134 women who deployed to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Survey invitations were sent by mail to 600 randomly selected women who experienced recent military deployments and were residing in New England. The web-based survey included measures of combat exposure, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, alcohol misuse, postdeployment stress exposure, family functioning, intimate relationship satisfaction, and parenting. Multivariate linear regression with bootstrapping estimates of indirect effects was used to examine whether PTSD symptoms and alcohol misuse accounted for associations between women’s combat exposure and their postdeployment relationship and family functioning. Results indicated that women’s PTSD symptoms had a direct and negative effect on postdeployment family functioning and on intimate relationship satisfaction. There was no direct association between combat exposure or alcohol misuse with any of the family or relationship functioning variables, however, the indirect association from combat to postdeployment family functioning (b = −.13, SE = 0.07, 95% confidence interval [CI]: −33, −.03) and intimate relationship satisfaction (b = −.25, SE = 0.18, 95% CI: −.79, −.001) was significant and negative through its association with PTSD symptoms. Parenting satisfaction was significantly and negatively associated with postdeployment stress only. This study is among the first to characterize the impact of deployment experiences on women veterans’ relationship and family functioning. Findings suggest that women veterans who have been exposed to combat and who have higher levels of PTSD symptoms may benefit from relationship and family focused services after deployment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

American Psychological Association

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

VHA VISN 17 Center of Excellence, 4800 Memorial Drive (151 C), Waco, TX, SKC
Providence VA Medical Center, Providence, RI, RS
Department of Psychiatry, Warren Alpert Medical School, Brown University, Providence, RI, CZ
Behavioral Sciences Division, National Center for PTSD, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, MA, CT
Women’s Health Sciences Division, National Center for PTSD, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, MA, AES


afghan campaign 2001-, alcoholism, combat, combat disorders, combat experience, family, family functioning, family relations, female, human females, humans, interpersonal relations, iraq war, 2003-2011, linear models, mental disorders, mental health, military veterans, multivariate analysis, new england, parenting, personal satisfaction, post-traumatic stress disorder, relationships, stress disorders, psychological, surveys and questionnaires, veterans, war, women veterans

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


VHA VISN 17 Center of Excellence

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