Couple Functioning and Posttraumatic Stress in OIF/OEF Veterans and Spouses


Name: Kristal Melvin

Rank: MAJ

Organization: Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing

Performance Site: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD

Year Published: 2010

Abstract Status: Final


The presence of posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in a combat veteran has negative effects on the entire military family, with or without the diagnosis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  PTSS has been implicated in domestic violence and divorce of military couples, as well as increased service member suicides.   This study, which is aligned with the first priority of the Triservice Nursing Research Program for 2010, Force Health Protection, will explore the relationship between PTSS and couple functioning.  This will inform future interventions for improving functioning among military couples.  

Using the Couple Adaptation to Traumatic Stress model (Nelson-Goff & Smith, 2005), a latent construct of couple functioning will be created using measures of marital satisfaction, resilience, communication, and conflict.  PTSS will be measured using the Posttraumatic Checklist. Cross-sectional descriptive data will be collected on PTSS and couple functioning among male (n=35) and female (n=10) combat veterans and their spouses/partners. Phase 1 data will be analyzed using correlations and ANCOVA.  Using a purposive sampling design, 6-10 couples from this sample will then be selected for Phase 2, in-depth semi-structured interviews.  Using both qualitative and quantitative data, we expect to obtain an understanding of PTSS and its association with couple functioning, as well as how some couples under stress are able to function well. This will inform future interventions for improving functioning among military couples. Specific aims are to: (1) Examine the relationships between PTSS and couple functioning in (a) combat veterans and (b) their spouses. (2) Test the moderating effects of age, sex, rank and previous history of trauma on the relationship between PTSS and couple functioning. (3) Conduct a preliminary comparison of couple functioning and PTSS in male versus female veterans and their spouses.  (4) In couples with high levels of PTSS (veteran or spouse/partner), compare the experiences of those with high levels of couple functioning to those with low levels of couple functioning.


Final Report is available on NTRL: