Combat disclosure in intimate relationships: Mediating the impact of partner support on posttraumatic stress

Christina Balderrama-Durbin, Douglas K. Snyder, Jeffrey Cigrang, G. Wayne Talcott, Jo Lyn Tatum, Monty Baker, Daniel Cassidy, Scott Sonnek, Richard E. Heyman, Amy M.Smith Slep

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although previous research has shown a negative relation between partner support and posttraumatic stress disorder (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 postdeployment PTSD symptom severity. Subsequent mediation analyses demonstrated that level of disclosure of deployment- and combat-related experiences by service members to their intimate partners accounted for a significant portion of the relation between partner support and postdeployment 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)560-568
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Combat disclosure
  • Intimate relationships
  • Partner support
  • Posttraumatic stress
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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