Impact of Deployment-Related Sexual Stressors on Psychiatric Symptoms After Accounting for Predeployment Stressors: Findings From a U.S. National Guard Cohort

Ethan B. McCallum, Maureen Murdoch, Christopher R. Erbes, Paul Arbisi, Melissa A. Polusny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study used a longitudinal research design to examine the impact of predeployment stressors and deployment-related sexual stressors on self-reported psychiatric symptoms of U.S. National Guard soldiers returning from deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan. Prior to deployment, participants completed measures of depression and posttraumatic stress symptoms, along with an inventory of predeployment stressor experiences. At 3-months postdeployment, participants (468 men, 60 women) again completed self-report measures of psychiatric symptoms, along with an inventory of sexual stressors experienced during deployment. We compared a cross-sectional model of sexual stressors' impact on psychiatric symptoms, in which only postdeployment reports were considered, to a longitudinal model in which we adjusted for participants' predeployment stressors and psychiatric symptoms. No participants reported sexual assault during deployment, though sexual harassment was common. The cross-sectional model suggested that deployment-related sexual stressors were significantly associated with postdeployment depression (R2 = .11) and posttraumatic stress symptoms (R2 = .10). Once predeployment factors were taken into consideration, however, sexual stressors were no longer significant. The results did not support the notion of lasting negative impact for low-level sexual stressors (e.g., sexual harassment) during deployment after predeployment stressors are accounted for. Future studies of sexual stressors should consider longitudinal designs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-313
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Volume28
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

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