Veteran-child communication about parental PTSD: A mixed methods pilot study

Michelle D. Sherman, Jessica Larsen, Kristy Straits-Troster, Christopher Erbes, John Tassey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The majority of adults with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are parents. Parents with PTSD report lower levels of parenting satisfaction, poorer parent- child relationships, and elevated incidence of child distress and behavioral problems in comparison with parents without PTSD. Although literature exists regarding parent- child communication about serious mental illness and physical health problems, research has yet to examine this communication regarding parental PTSD. This 3-site, mixed methods study involved 19 veteran parents who had a diagnosis of PTSD; participants were recruited from VA medical centers. Veterans participated in focus groups or individual interviews and completed questionnaires, responding to questions about motivations and barriers for disclosure of their PTSD to their children, the content of such disclosure, experiences at the VA as a parent, and desired VA family resources. Although many veterans described a desire to talk with their children about PTSD, they experience many barriers to doing so, including both personal reservations and feelings (e.g., avoidance of discussing PTSD, shame) and concerns about the consequences of disclosure on their children (e.g., child distress, loss of child's respect for veteran). Regarding veterans' experience at the VA, 21% reported that none of their providers had assessed if they have children, and 21% experienced the VA system as not welcoming to them as parents, citing both logistical issues (e.g., lack of childcare) and provider neglect of parenting concerns. Veterans indicated they would like the VA to offer parenting classes, workshops for families, child care, and family therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)595-603
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Psychological Association.


  • PTSD
  • Parent- child communication
  • Parental mental illness
  • Parenting
  • Veterans

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