Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 459-473

First online:

Do Secondary Trauma Symptoms in Spouses of Combat-Exposed National Guard Soldiers Mediate Impacts of Soldiers’ Trauma Exposure on Their Children?

  • Joseph R. HerzogAffiliated withThe University of West Florida Email author 
  • , R. Blaine EversonAffiliated withThe Samaritan Counseling Center of Northeast Georgia
  • , James D. WhitworthAffiliated withThe University of West Florida

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This exploratory study examines the associated effects of combat exposure on Soldiers assigned to a Midwestern Army National Guard unit. It also explores the secondary and mediating effects of combat exposure on Soldier’s spouses and children. The correlations of combat exposure with trauma symptoms, substance abuse, domestic violence and secondary trauma symptoms among family members are identified. Survey results suggest that immediate family members of combat-exposed Soldiers with high levels of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at risk for developing secondary traumatic stress. Secondary trauma symptoms in these spouses are a risk-increasing mediating variable between trauma symptoms in combat-exposed Soldiers and secondary trauma symptoms in their children. Results from this investigation emphasize the need for further inquiry into this topic. They further highlight the need for preventive and treatment efforts targeted toward all family members and relationships in order to lessen the effects of combat exposure.


Secondary trauma National Guard Military families Mediating variable PTSD Military children