Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Intimate Relationship Problems: A Meta-Analysis

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Objective: The authors conducted a meta-analysis of empirical studies investigating associations between indices of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and intimate relationship problems to empirically synthesize this literature. Method: A literature search using PsycINFO, Medline, Published International Literature on Traumatic Stress (PILOTS), and Dissertation Abstracts was performed. The authors identified 31 studies meeting inclusion criteria. Results: True score correlations (ρ) revealed medium-sized associations between PTSD and intimate relationship discord (ρ = .38, N = 7,973, K = 21), intimate relationship physical aggression perpetration (ρ = .42, N = 4,630, K = 19), and intimate relationship psychological aggression perpetration (ρ = .36, N = 1,501, K = 10). The strength of the association between PTSD and relationship discord was higher in military (vs. civilian) samples, and when the study was conducted in the United States (vs. other country), and the study represented a doctoral dissertation (vs. published article). The strength of the association between PTSD and physical aggression was higher in military (vs. civilian) samples, males (vs. females), community (vs. clinical) samples, studies examining PTSD symptom severity (vs. diagnosis), when the physical aggression measure focused exclusively on severe violence (vs. a more inclusive measure), and the study was published (vs. dissertation). For the PTSD–psychological aggression association, 98% of the variance was accounted for by methodological artifacts such as sampling and measurement error; consequently, no moderators were examined in this relationship. Conclusions: Findings highlight a need for the examination of models explaining the relationship difficulties associated with PTSD symptomatology and interventions designed to treat problems in both areas.

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