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War Stress and Trauma: The Vietnam Veteran Experience

Robert S. Laufer, M. S. Gallops and Ellen Frey-Wouters
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 25, No. 1 (Mar., 1984), pp. 65-85
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2136705
Page Count: 21
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War Stress and Trauma: The Vietnam Veteran Experience
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Abstract

Previous studies of the effect of war on men's life have focused primarily on the effects of combat exposure. However, reliance on combat exposure, defined in the traditional sense, as the sole indicator of war trauma ignores aspects of the phenomenon present in the Vietnam conflict. In this paper, we develop and test a model of war trauma that contains three elements: (1) combat experience, (2) witnessing abusive violence, and (3) participation in abusive violence. Using a sample of 350 Vietnam veterans, we apply a hierarchical regression analysis to scales of psychiatric symptomatology to test this model. The findings confirm that each of the three elements of war trauma affects postservice psychological states of veterans in significant and different ways. Furthermore, exposure to abusive violence is found to have significantly different effects for black and white veterans. Qualitative material from transcripts is used to explore the meaning of the different pattern of findings for these groups. The findings emphasize the importance of specifying what constitutes "the experience" when attempting to link traumatic experiences to subsequent psychological patterns.

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