Characteristics of Veterans and Military Service Members Who Endorse Causing Harm, Injury, or Death to Others in the Military

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Abstract

Objective: The purpose of the present research was to examine the demographic and mental health characteristics of veterans and service members who endorsed having caused harm, injury, or death to another person on deployment, while taking these individuals’ total number of other lifetime traumas into account. Method: Data for the present study were collected as part of the standard clinical evaluation for 228 treatment-seeking veterans and service members. Results: Those who reported having caused harm, injury, or death to another person on deployment (22.4%) were more likely to be male, to have served in the Marines, to have served post 9/11, and to endorse other traumas commonly reported on deployment than those who did not endorse causing harm, injury, or death. Those who endorsed causing harm on deployment were less likely to have served in the Air Force, and to have experienced sexual assault than those who did not cause harm. Causing harm, injury, or death was associated with higher levels of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), drug use, and expressive anger at the bivariate level, but was no longer associated with mental health problems after accounting for the number of other lifetime traumas. Conclusions: Examining the role of causing harm in isolation may lead to false conclusions. Clinicians and researchers should assess for veterans’ and service members’ entire trauma histories.

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