Background and Objectives: The postdeployment social context is likely highly salient in explaining mental health symptoms following deployment. The aim of this study was to examine the role of postdeployment social factors (social support and social reintegration difficulty) in linking deployment-related experiences (warfare exposure, sexual harassment, concerns about relationship disruptions, and deployment social support) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology in male and female veterans.
Design: A survey was administered to 998 potential participants (after accounting for undeliverable mail) who had returned from deployment to Afghanistan or Iraq. Completed surveys were received from 469 veterans, yielding a response rate of 47%.
Methods: Hypotheses were examined using structural equation modeling.
Results: For male and female veterans, deployment factors predicted later PTSD symptoms through postdeployment social support and social reintegration, with lower support and higher social reintegration difficulty both associated with higher PTSD symptomatology. While the final models for women and men indicated similar risk mechanisms, some differences in pathways were observed. Sexual harassment presented more of a risk for women, whereas lower social support was a greater risk factor for men.
Conclusions: Postdeployment social factors appear to represent potentially important targets for interventions aiming to reduce the potential impact of stressful deployment experiences.