Psychology, Professional

Date of Paper/Work

Spring 4-23-2021

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Nathaniel Nelson


Introduction: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common and potentially debilitating condition faced by many military service members (SM) that has far reaching effects on individuals and their families. Partners’ perceptions of SM’s PTSD symptoms and their subsequent attributions regarding the causal nature of those symptoms play a significant role in the partner’s appraisal of their relationship which may affect the support they provide the SM (e.g., Renshaw et al., 2014). The current study follows a cohort of 152 Iowa National Guard partners over the course of their respective SM’s deployment to Afghanistan in support of OEF.

Method: Archival data was used for the analyses. Questionnaires were administered before and after deployment to partners which assessed relationship satisfaction. Post-deployment questionnaires also assessed attributions and perceptions of PTSD symptoms. Regression analyses explored whether partner attributions moderated the relationship between partners’ perceived SM PTSD symptoms and their satisfaction within the relationship. A second set of similar hierarchical regressions were conducted controlling for pre-deployment levels of relationship satisfaction. Additional, exploratory cross-sectional analyses were conducted to determine predictors of internal/external partner attributions by regressing partner attribution total scores onto two PTSD symptom cluster models.

Results. Bivariate correlations revealed that internal partner attributions were negatively associated with partner relationship satisfaction at post-deployment, while external attributions did not demonstrate a significant relationship. Although both cross-sectional external and internal attribution regression models were significant, neither internal nor external attributions moderated the relationship between partners’ perceived PTSD symptoms and relationship satisfaction when analyzed. When incorporating pre-deployment levels of relationship satisfaction, internal attributions moderated the relationship between partners’ perceived PTSD symptoms and relationship satisfaction, so that the negative relationship between perceptions of SM PTSD symptoms and relationship satisfaction were strongest when partners made less internal attributions and became weaker when they made more. Once again, external attributions did not moderate this relationship. Pre-deployment levels of relationship satisfaction significantly predicted post-deployment relationship satisfaction in both models.

Conclusion. This is the first study of its kind to incorporate pre-deployment relationship satisfaction ratings when exploring the potential effects of partners’ attributional tendencies on their appraisal of their relationship. Although replication is warranted, these findings broadly demonstrate that certain partner attributions may have an influence on the level of satisfaction they derive from their relationship immediately following a deployment. Additionally, relationship satisfaction levels prior to deployment appear to be an important predictor of relationship satisfaction following deployment. As such, military units may benefit from screening SMs and their partners to better identify relationships in need of additional resources prior to and during deployment (e.g., couples counseling, psychoeducation). Future research examining the influence of partner relationship satisfaction on their willingness to provide social support is warranted.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.