Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology Research

Women, Children and War: The Experience of Intimate Partners and Their Offspring with Traumatized Men

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology Research

Women, Children and War: The Experience of Intimate Partners and Their Offspring with Traumatized Men

Article excerpt


It has been said that no one returns from war unchanged. Symptoms that veterans reported, and which compose that diagnosis, include sleep disturbances, uncontrollable thoughts, depression, flashbacks, feelings of anger, and helplessness. Normal everyday functioning becomes difficult (see Vagharseyydin, 2015). "In addition to having suffered trauma, the affected people have experienced a whole range of losses, such as family, a home, relatives, friends, jobs and professional identity. The communities they knew are fragmented; social networks and other support mechanisms to which they normally turned are shattered." (Ajdukovic, 2007; p. 121).

Caring for someone who is experiencing PTSD makes the caregiver, and in our case the intimate partner, vulnerable to the veteran's disturbed thoughts, emotions, and behaviors which are bound to negatively affect the relationship and may lead to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, of the caring partner by the war veteran (Klarić et al., 2010).

Gap in Research on Intimate Partners of War Veterans

Shoebridge's (2007) research about the effects of war suggests that the wives of veterans have not been considered as individuals; their roles are marginalized. They were either portrayed as mothers, sisters, wives or daughters of combatants. Women, partners of war veterans, have endured real hardship during the absence of the loved soldier or subsequent to his death, particularly if the body has never been found or repatriated. More significantly, a growing issue concerns those women who did not lose their loved ones, but faced and continue to tolerate unexpected adversity upon the return of veterans to their families. Out of a sense of duty, pride, responsibility or shame, stories that would shock the world remain untold by so many women, some for fear of reprisal from surviving husbands or fathers, others from a misplaced sense of duty or family honour. These women are the unwitting victims of war, who are engaged in a secret, private conflict, at home, where the prevalent mental condition, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD thereafter), is significantly present in their lives. The intergenerational impact of PTSD on relationships with family members -and not only wives- is quite prevalent if we understand that as the veterans suffering from traumarelated disorders bring their problems home, the ramifications on the rest of the family begin to manifest quite early and generally haunt them for the duration of the relationship (Brown, 1984; Price, 2014). Research shows that this affects subsequent generations (See for example Castelloe, 2012; O'Brien, 2004; Yehuda, 2002) as more young people are diagnosed with PTSD than before.

Inquiries, to date, have largely focused on the veterans, predominantly documenting the effects of war, combat related events and especially Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and less on their families (Isovaara, Arman, & Rehnsfeldt, 2006; Kozaric-Kovacic, Heroigonia, & Grubisic, 2000; Larsson, Michel, & Lundin, 2000; Wild, 2003). The focus of this paper is to highlight the themes in the experience of wives and children of traumatized veterans.

The Present Study

Ten women, eight wives and two female children of war veterans, wrote about their experiences as spouses to soldiers who returned from war, physically and emotionally wounded. The writings of the participants were content analysed, and presented in this paper. The unique angle of the present study is that it was not the war veterans themselves, but the people who lived with and observed them on a daily basis, who wrote about their experiences, feelings, and how they were affected by the husband's and father's participation in war.



Eight women married [or have been] to war veterans, and two adult female children were recruited by snowball technique in Australia, and volunteered to write, at length, about the war veterans, their behaviours, and the effects that their war traumas had on them and on the entire family. …

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