Date of Award

Summer 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Committee Director

Glenn D. Shean

Committee Member

Marinell Miller-Mumford

Committee Member

Frederick Frieden

Committee Member

W. Larry Ventis


As members of the United States Military return stateside from the combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, an increasing number of veterans exposed to combat are reporting symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as other significant detrimental impacts on their ability to cope with the stressful situations they experienced in the combat arena. The purpose of the current study is to ascertain the presence of posttraumatic stress disorder in veterans returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and Operation New Dawn (OND), the potential impairment in their abilities to cope with the combat-related stress. The comparison groups included 1,824 veterans who participated in the Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Centers (MIRECC) research project, and were recruited from Veterans Administration Centers in Durham, North Carolina, Salisbury, North Carolina, Richmond, Virginia, Hampton, Virginia and Salem, Virginia. The research study included 1,824 participants, of which 1451 were male and 373 were female. The study included 822 Caucasians, 896 African Americans, 41 Hispanic Americans, 24 Asian Americans, and 8 Native Americans. Each of the participants completed measures related to mental, emotional, social and occupational functioning, and provided information regarding personal and familial history, prior exposure to traumatic experiences and levels of combat experiences in theater. Analyses indicated that symptoms of PTSD and trauma are positively correlated with intensity of exposure to combat experiences, and that symptoms of trauma and exposure to combat were both related to impaired coping abilities, alcohol misuse and substance use. Analyses indicated that combat exposure and coping abilities predicted PTSD, specifically symptom severity related to PTSD, and that exposure to combat leads to increased prevalence and severity of symptoms of PTSD, independent of coping skills and social support. Veterans reporting higher levels of combat exposure demonstrated a higher prevalence of PTSD and predicted a negative impact on their coping abilities. Results indicated that experiences of trauma before, during and after deployment contributed to the development of PTSD symptoms. Gender and race differences, as well as the effects of education and the limitations of the present study and its implications for future research are discussed.


A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculties of The College of William and Mary, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, and Old Dominion University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology through the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology.


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