Balderrama-Durbin, Christina Marie (2015-08). Combat Disclosure in Intimate Relationships: A Mediator between Partner Support and Posttraumatic Stress. Doctoral Dissertation.
Although previous research has shown a negative relation between partner support and PTSD symptom severity among military service members following deployment, the mediating mechanisms of this effect remain poorly understood. This study examined willingness to disclose deployment- and combat-related experiences as a mediating mechanism underlying the linkage between intimate partner support and PTSD symptom severity in a sample of 76 U.S. Air Force service members deployed to Iraq in a year-long, high-risk mission. Airmen's reports of overall social support, and partner support specifically, significantly predicted concurrent post-deployment PTSD symptom severity. Subsequent mediation analyses demonstrated that level of comfort with disclosure of combat-related experiences by service members to their intimate partners accounted for a significant portion of the relation between partner support and post-deployment PTSD symptom severity. The level of Airmen's disclosure was also inversely related to levels of relationship distress. Implications of these findings for prevention and intervention strategies and for further research are discussed.