Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 131–148 | Cite as

Combat Experience and Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms among Military-Serving Parents: a Meta-Analytic Examination of Associated Offspring and Family Outcomes

  • Tessa K. KritikosEmail author
  • Jonathan S. Comer
  • Meiqi He
  • Laura C. Curren
  • Martha C. Tompson


In this meta-analysis, we review findings on the relationships between parental combat exposure and PTSD/PTSS in military-serving families and (1) parenting problems, (2) family maladjustment, and (3) offspring problems. We systematically searched for studies in PsycInfo, PsychArticles, Psychology and Behavior Sciences Collection, Published International Literature on Traumatic Stress (PILOTS), and PubMed/Medline as well as conducted manual searches. Search procedures identified 22 eligible studies, including 20 studies examining relationships between parental PTSD/PTSS and parenting, family, and/or offspring outcomes and 8 studies examining relationships between parental combat exposure and parenting, family, and/or offspring outcomes. Random effects meta-analytic models estimated omnibus associations between parental combat exposure/PTSD and pooled Family Difficulties, as well as individual relationships between parental combat exposure and PTSD/PTSS and parenting, family adjustment, and offspring outcomes. Small-to-moderate effect sizes were observed in the omnibus meta-analysis examining relationships between parental PTSD/PTSS and pooled Family Difficulties, and in the meta-analysis examining relationships between parental PTSD/PTSS and parenting problems, between parental PTSD/PTSS and poor family functioning, and between parental PTSD/PTSS and offspring problems. Associations between parental combat exposure and pooled Family Difficulties, as well as between parental combat exposure and parenting problems were smaller in magnitude. PTSD/PTSS among military-serving parents is associated with increased problems in the family environment, including parenting problems, family maladjustment, and offspring problems, whereas combat exposure alone is not as strongly associated with such family difficulties. Moderator analyses are presented and discussed as well. When military-serving parents show psychological symptoms, professionals should consider allocating resources to target broader family issues.


Military families Combat exposure PTSD Parenting Child symptoms Family functioning 



This research was supported by a Clara Mayo Memorial Research Fellowship from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Boston University.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

As this was a meta-analysis, there was no human subjects research, and there was no IRB approval or informed consent obtained.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tessa K. Kritikos
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jonathan S. Comer
    • 2
  • Meiqi He
    • 3
  • Laura C. Curren
    • 1
  • Martha C. Tompson
    • 1
  1. 1.Boston UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.Florida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  3. 3.University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public HealthPittsburghUSA

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