Academic journal article Best Practices in Mental Health

Deployment Psychological Trajectories of National Guard Couples

Academic journal article Best Practices in Mental Health

Deployment Psychological Trajectories of National Guard Couples

Article excerpt

National Guard (NG) service members have played a major role in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and Operation New Dawn (OND) (Jansen et al., 2013). National Guard service member "citizen soldiers" were traditionally required to serve only "one weekend a month, two weeks a year" (Hotopf et al, 2006). However, since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, NG service members are more likely to expect to deploy at least once (National Guard, 2013). As of 2015, more than 760,000 NG service members have been deployed in support of overseas missions and more than half of NG service members have experienced combat. Such deployment experiences put significant pressure on the mental health and intimate relationships of NG service members and their families.

Studies reporting the effects of deployment to conflict regions such as Iraq and Afghanistan among National Guard/reserve (NG/R) populations show high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol abuse, anxiety disorders, and major depression (Jacobson et al. 2008; Kline et al., 2009; Renshaw, Rodrigues, & Jones, 2009; Shea, Vujanovic, Mansfield, Sevin, & Lui, 2010; Thomas et al., 2010; Vogt, Samper, King, King, & Martin, 2008). In fact, studies comparing NG/Rs to other active duty military personnel found higher rates of mental health issues among NG/Rs (Griffith, 2010; Milliken, Auchterlonie, & Hoge, 2007; Thomas et al., 2010; Vogt et al., 2008). These rates are exacerbated by higher combat exposure and multiple deployments (Kline et al., 2009; Polusny et al., 2009; Renshaw et al., 2009). Higher rates of mental health problems among NG/R personnel have been attributed to their age and family and employment status (Seal, Bertenthal, Miner, Sen, & Marmar, 2007). One study by Vogt and colleagues (2011), which assessed posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptoms over the course of deployment (i.e., at pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment), found that rates of PTS symptoms were highest among those with pre- and post-deployment stressors, more negative family functioning, more concerns about family disruption, and higher levels of combat exposure.

Many studies have documented the perceived burden of having a spouse who is in the military and who has developed mental health problems as a result of combat. Such a perception of burden leads to higher levels of distress in civilian spouses (Caska & Renshaw, 2011). In fact, research overwhelmingly shows a consistent pattern of relationship and psychological distress in spouses of combat veterans with PTSD (Campbell & Renshaw, 2012).

The family stress theory has been used to explain the increase in distress among intimate partners of combat veterans with PTSD because it highlights the function of role responsibilities during deployment. According to this theory, families experience higher levels of distress when there is an imbalance in demands and resources. One factor that leads to imbalance is introduced during deployment when service members are exposed to trauma and develop psychiatric symptoms, and another factor is introduced when intimate partners need to be more assertive as the head of the household (Solomon et al., 1992). These factors create conflict when combat veterans attempt to resume previous responsibilities within their financial, parenting, and relationship roles (Knox & Price, 1995). A second explanation posits that such increases in distress in intimate partners and spouses are attributable to "secondary traumatization" (Bjornestad, Schweinle, & Elhai, 2014). Originally coined by Figley (1983), the notion of secondary traumatization has been applied in the scientific literature more broadly when general distress and psychiatric symptomology are transmitted from trauma survivor to part- ner; that is, both partners will experience increased distress even if only one partner experienced the traumatic event or events (see Garlovski & Lyons, 2004). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.