Exploring Relationship Satisfaction and Attachment Behaviors in Single- and Dual-Trauma Couples: A Pilot Study

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Abstract

Much has been done to examine the impact of traumatic stress on interpersonal dynamics of couples in which 1 partner is the identified trauma survivor (single-trauma couples). However, there are fewer empirical evaluations of couples in which both partners have experienced a traumatic event (dual-trauma couples). Using a sample of 35 couples, this pilot study examined relationship satisfaction and attachment behaviors of dyads in which 1 versus both partners reported trauma exposure. Four multiple-group actor–partner interdependence models assessed trauma’s impact on single- and dual-trauma couples. Preliminary results suggested several significant differences between single- and dual-trauma couple types. Among single-trauma couples, higher number of trauma experiences by wives predicted lower levels of relationship satisfaction in husbands, whereas among dual-trauma couples, higher number of traumas for wives predicted higher levels of attachment behavior in husbands. For dual-trauma couples, husband posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms predicted lower levels of relationship satisfaction for both themselves and their wives. PTSD symptoms also predicted lower levels of both husband and wives’ own attachment behaviors. Findings invite further exploration into a more dynamic conceptualization of the recursive relationship between cumulative trauma exposure and interpersonal relationships that may better explain the impact of traumatic stress within couple relationships.

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