Date of Award

Spring 2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Phyllis Solomon, PhD

Second Advisor

Amy Helstrom, PhD

Abstract

Objective: A cross-sectional design and four-model regression analysis were used to test the hypotheses that higher levels of combat-related stress (combat exposure and comrade loss) would predict higher levels of depressive symptoms and that social support and adaptive coping style would moderate the relationship between combat exposure and depression in a sample of female OEF/OIF/OND veterans. Methods: 128 female OEF/OIF/OND veterans completed an online survey consisting of the Combat Experiences Scale, Brief COPE, Postdeployment Social Support Scale, Patient Health Questionnaire, a one-item question about loss of comrades to combat, and demographic questions. Several control variables were included. Results: There was no significant relationship between combat-related stress and depression, although a majority (64.9%) of respondents identified losing one or more comrades to combat. Social support and adaptive coping style did not significantly moderate the relationship between combat exposure and depression. Higher levels of social support, being financially comfortable, and use of antidepressants were significantly correlated with lower levels of depression, while being employed part time was significantly correlated with higher levels of depression. A majority (67.2%) of respondents identified having a past experience of military sexual trauma (MST). The amount of variance in depression scores explained across the four regression models ranged from 54% to 61%. Conclusion: Results point to the importance of screening and intervening in mental health treatment with depressed female OEF/OIF/OND veterans around financial and employment concerns, as well as referring to psychopharmacology. As women increasingly serve in combat positions and experience high rates of MST, researchers should focus on identifying unique deployment-related stressors experienced by female veterans serving in combat positions and work to isolate those factors most strongly associated with depression following deployment.

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