Mental health consequences of pre- and peri-military violence victimization among United States Army soldiers: The moderating effect of resilience
Several factors must be considered when examining violence victimization and mental health consequences among military service members: the prevalence of pre-military victimization, the risk of subsequent victimization conferred by prior victimization, the cumulative or multiplicative effect of adverse events, and the prevalence of trauma exposure and mental health issues in the military, as well as protective factors, such as resilience. The present study seeks to examine the differential impact of several types of victimization both pre- and peri-military on current mental health symptoms, as well as the potential buffering effect of resilience, in a sample of United States Army Soldiers (N = 947). To address our research aims, we conducted multiple regression analyses to examine associations of violence victimization with PTSD and depression symptoms in separate models, and a simple moderation analysis was performed. Higher ratings of minor forms of victimization in the military, weapon victimization in the military, sexual victimization both pre- and peri-military, being beat up pre-military, and life events were associated with more of PTSD symptoms, while higher levels of resilience were associated with fewer PTSD symptoms. Higher ratings of minor victimization in the military, sexual victimization pre-military, being beat up pre-military, life events, and combat were associated with higher levels of depression symptoms, while resilience was associated with lower ratings of depression symptoms. We found that psychological resilience buffered against the effects of victimization history on current symptoms of both PTSD and depression. Even at low levels of victimization, resilience was protective against PTSD and depressive symptoms. Our results support the deleterious effects of sexual assault victimization while in the military, and highlight the importance of several pre-military forms of victimization as continuing to predict current mental health among service members. Finally, in addition to the prevention of violence in the military, these findings suggest that efforts to increase resilience may be worthwhile.