Common challenges experienced by spouses and partners of OIF/OEF veterans include mental illness, interpersonal violence, and difficulties in readjusting to new roles within the family. Depression and anxiety both during and after deployment are common among spouses and partners, and these disorders may worsen if the veteran spouse has a physical injury resulting from combat.
Interpersonal violence related to PTSD has emerged as another challenge among OIF/OEF veterans and their spouses. A 2010 study that looked at rates of interpersonal violence among OIF/OEF veterans with PTSD versus Vietnam veterans with PTSD concluded that male OIF/OEF veterans were about 2 to 3 times more likely to engage in interpersonal violence toward their female partner and about 1.5 to 6 times more likely to experience interpersonal violence from their female partners.3
Another study found that veterans with PTSD were less likely to report intimate partner aggression (IPA) compared with their partners and that IPA was more commonly perpetrated by the female partners than by the male veterans.4 The spouse of a veteran with PTSD may face challenges, including financial hardship, gambling, problems requesting leave from an employer to care for a spouse with PTSD, and time spent taking the spouse to medical appointments and talking to health care professionals.
Some research suggests that the marital satisfaction of military couples is not different from that of non-military families with the exception of when the deployed spouse has PTSD. In this case, both military members and their spouses report lower marital satisfaction, especially in terms of poor parenting alliance and negative communication.
Parental deployment can affect the mental health and behavior of children. Studies indicate that children with a deployed OIF/OEF parent have high rates of depressive disorder and acute stress reactions.5 Emotional difficulties may increase if the veteran parent has PTSD.
Few studies have examined children’s behavioral responses to parental deployment and reintegration. The available research suggests that the behavioral effects of parental deployment and reunification vary based on the child’s age. Children ages 0 to 48 months may display attachment issues (ie, difficulty separating from the parent, ignoring the parent).
Ms Pajak is a Licensed Medical Social Worker and Certified Correctional Health Professional. She graduated from The Georgia Institute of Technology and The University of Georgia. She works at a county jail in Atlanta, Georgia, as a mental health clinician.
1. Tsai J, Rosenheck RA, Kasprow WJ, McGuire JF. Risk of incarceration and other characteristics of Iraq and Afghanistan era veterans in state and federal prison. Psychiatr Serv. 2013; 64:1 36-43.
2. Gewirtz AH, Polusny MA, Forgatch M, et al. Effectiveness of a web-enhanced parenting program for military families: Grant awarded to the University of Minnesota from the National Institutes of Health. National Institute on Drug Abuse; 2009. Grant No. DA030114.
3. Allen E, Rhoades GK, Stanley SM, Markman HJ. Hitting home: relationships between recent deployment, post traumatic stress symptoms, and marital functioning for Army couples. J Fam Psychol. 2010;24:280-288.
4. LaMotte AD, Taft CT, Weatherill RP, et al. Examining intimate partner aggression assessment among returning veterans and their partners. Psychol Assess. 2014; 26:8-15.
5. Mansfield AJ, Kaufman JS, Engel CC, Gaynes BN. Deployment and mental health diagnoses among children of US Army personnel. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2011;165:999-1005.