PTSD symptoms and family versus stranger violence in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans

Law Hum Behav. 2014 Feb;38(1):1-9. doi: 10.1037/lhb0000035. Epub 2013 May 6.


As a diagnosis, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been associated with violence committed by veterans in many studies; however, a potential link to specific PTSD symptoms has received relatively less attention. This paper examines the relationship between PTSD symptoms and different types of violent behavior in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Participants were randomly sampled from a roster of all separated U.S. military service members or national guard/reservists who served after September 11, 2001. Data were collected at baseline and 1-year follow-up from a national sample of N = 1,090 veterans, from 50 states and all military branches. Of these veterans, 13% reported aggression toward a family member and 9% toward a stranger during the 1-year study period. Anger symptoms at baseline predicted higher odds of family violence at follow-up, both severe (OR = 1.30, CI [1.13, 1.48], p < .0001) and any (OR = 1.28, CI [1.19, 1.37], p < .0001). PTSD flashback symptoms at baseline predicted higher odds of stranger violence at follow-up, both severe (OR = 1.26, CI [1.11, 1.42], p < .0001) and any (OR = 1.16, CI [1.05, 1.28], p = .0029). Analyses revealed that males were more likely to engage in stranger violence, whereas females were more likely to endorse aggression in the family context. The results provide limited support to the hypothesis that PTSD "flashbacks" in veterans are linked to violence. The differing multivariate models illustrate distinct veteran characteristics associated with specific types of violence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Afghan Campaign 2001-*
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Anger
  • Combat Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Combat Disorders / psychology*
  • Domestic Violence / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011*
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • United States
  • Veterans / psychology*
  • Violence / psychology*