TitleA Life-span Perspective on Combat Exposure and PTSD Symptoms in Later Life: Findings From the VA Normative Aging Study.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsKang, S, Aldwin, C, Choun, S, Spiro, A
JournalThe Gerontologist
Date Published2016 Feb

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY: We tested a life-span model of combat exposure on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in later life, examining the direct and indirect effects of prewar, warzone, and postwar factors. DESIGN AND METHODS: The sample included 947 male World War II and Korean War veterans from the VA Normative Aging Study (Mage = 65, SD = 7). They completed mail surveys on childhood family environment, military service and postwar experience, stressful life events, and PTSD symptoms (response rates > 80%). RESULTS: We constructed an initial path model testing cumulative advantage and disadvantage pathways. Although all hypothesized relationships were significant, the model was not a good fit to the data. Subsequent models showed that all three life-span periods had both direct and indirect effects on PTSD symptoms and that there were interesting cross-links between the two sets of pathways. IMPLICATIONS: The life-span perspective provides a useful heuristic to model various developmental effects on later-life outcomes. A supportive childhood family environment can have lifelong protective effects, whereas a conflictual one can set up lifelong patterns of pessimistic appraisals.