Associations Between Service Members’ Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms and Partner Accommodation Over Time

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By bhadmin February 2, 2021

When service members manifest symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), intimate partners may engage in behaviors to accommodate their partners’ experiences (e.g., helping service members avoid situations that could make them uncomfortable, not expressing own thoughts and feelings to minimize PTSD‐related conflict), which may inadvertently serve to maintain or increase PTSD symptoms over time. In a sample of 274 male service member/female civilian couples, we evaluated hypothesized bidirectional pathways between self‐reported service member PTSD symptoms and partner accommodation, assessed four times over an approximately 18‐month period. A random‐intercept cross‐lagged panel model disaggregating between and within effects revealed that, on average, couples in which the service member had higher levels of total PTSD symptoms also scored higher in partner accommodation, between‐couple correlation, r = .40. In addition, at time points when service members’ PTSD symptoms were higher relative to their own average symptom level, their partners’ level of accommodation was also higher than their personal average, within‐couple correlation r = .22. Longitudinally, service member PTSD symptom scores higher than their personal average predicted subsequent increases in partner accommodation, β = .19, but not vice versa, β = .03. Overall, the findings indicate both stable and time‐specific significant associations between service member PTSD symptoms and partner accommodation and suggest that higher levels of PTSD symptoms are a significant driver of later increases in partner accommodation. These findings add further support for treating PTSD in an interpersonal context to address the disorder and concomitant relational processes that can adversely impact individual and relational well‐being.

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