Online Program

Refocusing the military trauma lens: Primary trauma experiences of military spouses

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sara Green, Doctoral Candidate, MSW, School of Social Work, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Paula Nurius, Ph.D., School of Social Work, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Norweeta Milburn, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA Nathanson Family Resilience Center, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Patricia Lester, MD, UCLA Nathanson Family Resilience Center, UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Trauma experiences of military spouses may be eclipsed by a focus on their partner's more obvious risks for traumatic exposure. Trauma histories of each family member contribute to individual and family-level vulnerability to stress and risks for decreased functioning. Considering the importance of spouse psychological health to military family well-being, it is imperative to understand how a spouse's primary trauma affects his or her health and ability to cope. The current study (161 female civilian spouses of active duty Army and Marine Corps service members) demonstrates a considerable amount of primary trauma and patterned associations with elevated current stress and lower socioeconomic and social resources. Spouses with higher symptom severity, including partial or full PTSD had significantly higher scores of family stress and psychological distress, more cumulative months of deployment, lower income and education, lower social support, and became parents at younger ages. Spouses with any trauma symptoms reported all life domains as negatively affected by their symptoms. Findings confirmed the unique, significant contribution of family stressors, socioeconomics, and social support toward explaining variation in spouses' symptomatology beyond that accounted for by trauma exposure. The regression model achieved significance for each block, with each change in R2 significant. Among all predictors, number of traumatic events and family stress were most robust. This study is one of a few to examine primary trauma experiences of military spouses. Military spouse psychological health represents a priority area for assessment, intervention, and education to prevent negative sequelae and to bolster resilience.

Learning Areas:

Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Other professions or practice related to public health
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Discuss mental health needs of military spouses, in particular those with primary trauma experiences and significant levels of trauma symptom severity. Identify protective resource factors for spouse psychological health and positive family functioning. Describe research and practice implications for supporting military family health.

Keyword(s): Women's Health, Veterans

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctoral student and NIMH Prevention Research Trainee studying mental health and prevention with vulnerable children and families. My work includes research and service delivery with at-risk populations including military families.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.