THE VETERAN/MILITARY COUPLE RELATIONSHIP IN THE CONTEXT OF POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER: THE ROLE OF RELATIONSHIP-FOCUSED COPING AND CONGRUENCY/DISCREPANCY OF COPING
GELA, NATALIE R.
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Intimate relationship functioning is an area of great concern for Veterans and military personnel coping with clinically significant posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as for their significant others. Research findings based on couples affected by chronic physical illnesses indicate that specific relationship-focused coping strategies (active engagement, protective buffering, and overprotection) are linked to dyadic adjustment and individual well-being, yet this type of interpersonal coping has not been investigated in the context of Veteran/military samples affected by PTSD. The present study used a sample of Veterans diagnosed with PTSD and their significant others (N = 71 pairs) to examine associations between: (a) relationship-focused coping and dyadic adjustment; (b) relationship-focused coping and PTSD symptom severity; and (c) relationship-focused coping and significant other emotional distress. Actor-Partner Interdependence Models revealed significant associations between relationship-focused coping strategies and dyadic adjustment in the predicted directions. Furthermore, protective buffering and overprotection were positively associated with, and active engagement was negatively associated with, Veteran PTSD symptom severity and significant other emotional distress. Congruency/discrepancy of couple members’ relationship-focused coping was also examined in order to investigate whether or not patterns of coping within a couple impact dyadic adjustment in the context of PTSD, and these findings were not significant. Overall, findings from the present study demonstrate the importance of interpersonal coping processes within the context of military Veterans diagnosed with PTSD and their significant others. The implications of these findings in regards to current theoretical models of PTSD and relationship functioning are discussed. Implications for clinical interventions aimed at treating Veterans diagnosed with PTSD and/or couples coping with a Veteran’s PTSD diagnosis are also discussed.