Using reinforcement sensitivity to understand longitudinal links between PTSD and relationship adjustment

Laura A. Meis, Christopher R. Erbes, Mark D. Kramer, Paul A. Arbisi, Shannon M. Kehle-Forbes, David S. DeGarmo, Sandra L. Shallcross, Melissa A. Polusny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

There is limited research testing longitudinal models of how posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) severity leads to impaired relationship adjustment. The present study evaluated 2 potential mechanisms among a longitudinal sample of National Guard soldiers deployed to the Iraq War: (1) sensitivity to cues associated with punishment within intimate relationships and (2) sensitivity to cues associated with incentives in intimate relationships. Participants were surveyed by mail 1 year after an extended 16-month combat deployment and again 2 years later. Using a cross-lagged panel analysis with 2 mediators (relationship-specific threat and incentive sensitivity), findings indicated Time 1 PTSD symptom severity significantly eroded relationship adjustment over time through greater sensitivity to cues of relationship-related punishment, but not through incentive sensitivity. Additionally, findings indicated sensitivity to cues of relationship-related threats maintains symptoms of PTSD while sensitivity to cues of relationship-related incentives maintains relationship adjustment. Finally, PTSD symptoms significantly predicted erosion of relationship adjustment over time; however, associations from relationship adjustment to changes in PTSD severity over time were nonsignificant. Findings are discussed within the context of reinforcement sensitivity theory and emotional processing theory of PTSD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-81
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Volume31
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Psychological Association.

Keywords

  • Couples
  • Military families
  • PTSD
  • Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory
  • Veterans

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