Childhood Maltreatment and Post-Deployment Psychological Distress: The Indirect Role of Emotional Numbing

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Abstract

Childhood maltreatment is an increasingly established predictor of psychological problems. However, limited research addresses pathways though which childhood maltreatment influences the mental health of military personnel following deployment. The current study investigated the direct, and indirect through emotional numbing, relations between childhood maltreatment and psychological distress of recently deployed veterans. For a sample of 131 predominantly White, male Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom members of U.S. Army National Guard and Reserve units, a path model was used to test the direct and indirect (through numbing) roles of childhood maltreatment on distress. Results showed that childhood maltreatment was not significantly directly associated with psychological distress one-year post-deployment but was indirectly related to distress by way of emotional numbing symptoms. Our findings suggest that childhood maltreatment may serve to influence returning veterans’ experiences of psychological distress indirectly through increased emotional numbing following deployment. The importance of attending to emotional numbing symptoms among veterans with experiences of childhood maltreatment after deployment is highlighted.

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