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The Role of War-Zone Trauma and PTSD in the Etiology of Antisocial Behavior

Fontana, Alan PhD; Rosenheck, Robert MD

Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease: March 2005 - Volume 193 - Issue 3 - pp 203-209
Original Articles

Historically, successful reintegration of war veterans into civilized society has been an enduring concern of nations. Data from the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study were used to develop and evaluate an etiological model of postwar antisocial behavior. Two initial models specified causal paths among five sets of variables, ordered according to their historical occurrence: (a) premilitary risk factors, (b) military traumas and disciplinary actions, (c) the homecoming reception, (d) postmilitary PTSD and substance abuse, and (e) postmilitary antisocial behavior. PTSD and substance abuse were omitted in one model and included in the other. The initial models were refined and then cross-validated, leading to the specification of replicated models with highly satisfactory fit and parsimony. Comparison of the two models suggested that (1) premilitary experiences and behavior exert the largest effects on postmilitary antisocial behavior, and that (2) PTSD plays a necessary mediational role for the effects of war-zone traumatic exposure on postmilitary antisocial behavior.

Northeast Program Evaluation Center, a division of the VA National Center for PTSD; and Yale University School of Medicine, West Haven, Connecticut.

Send reprint requests to Alan Fontana PhD, NEPEC (182), VA Connecticut Healthcare System-West Haven Campus, 950 Campbell Avenue, West Haven, CT 06516.

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.