Combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder and interpersonal functioning in veterans of the Vietnam War : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology at Massey University
Data reported in this thesis was collected as part of a national survey investigating the mental health of a community sample of New Zealand Vietnam War veterans. This thesis investigates the relationship between combat-related PTSD, interpersonal functioning and coping in these veterans. The results of this study confirm findings from previous research showing that a significant proportion of Vietnam War veterans are likely to have PTSD and that these veterans are likely to be presenting, some twenty years after their combat experiences, with a complex set of psychological, social, and interpersonal problems. The results also confirm studies showing that PTSD veterans, compared to non-PTSD veterans, are more likely to utilise coping strategies related to denial and disengagement in their attempts to deal with ongoing stress. In the present study, the poorer interpersonal functioning of veterans with PTSD was revealed primarily in increased interpersonal problem severity, rather than in poorer family functioning or lower dyadic adjustment. These results support a mediating model which proposes that PTSD is related to a range of problems which these veterans encounter when initiating and maintaining interpersonal relationships and that these problems are manifested in lower levels of family functioning and poorer dyadic adjustment. The strength of the relationship between PTSD and interpersonal problems appears not to be affected by variables such as initial combat experience, other dimensions of interpersonal functioning (family functioning and dyadic adjustment), concurrent diagnoses of anxiety and or depression, and the characteristic coping styles of the veterans. These results are consistent with the inclusion, in the DSM-III-R definition of PTSD, of symptoms of diminished interest in significant activities, detachment or estrangement from others, and constricted affect. The interpersonal problems reported by these veterans and the apparent link to poorer family functioning and dyadic adjustment suggests that it is important to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that includes attempts to improve individual interpersonal skills as well as attempts to reduce the interactional problems in the family and dyadic relationships of the veterans.