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Social Support and Psychopathology in the War Zone


The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: November 1997 - Volume 185 - Issue 11 - p 675-681

Unit cohesion and homecoming support are examined for their protective effects on the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychopathology. Data on 1198 male theater veterans were taken from the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study. Unit cohesion had no significant relationship, as a direct effect, to either PTSD or other psychopathology. In a pattern that was opposite to predictions from the buffering hypothesis of support, however, a high level of unit cohesion in combination with high war zone stress was associated with the highest levels of PTSD and psychopathology. This is consistent with Israeli experiences, suggesting that unit cohesion may have detrimental long-term effects on psychological well-being. In contrast, homecoming support was related negatively as a direct effect to both PTSD and other psychopathology. In addition, interaction results, consistent with the buffering hypothesis, suggest that the protective effects of homecoming support are magnified for veterans with high compared with low levels of exposure.

1 Northeast Program Evaluation Center (182), Evaluation Division of the VA National Center for PTSD, VA Connecticut Healthcare System, 950 Campbell Avenue, West Haven, Connecticut 06516.

2 Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.

3 Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, D.C.

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© Williams & Wilkins 1997. All Rights Reserved.