Objective: Large numbers of United States service members and veterans are enrolling in colleges and universities. Many are experiencing posttraumatic stress symptoms secondary to their military service, and these symptoms are associated with academic dysfunction. However, little is known about the mechanism(s) through which posttraumatic stress increases risk for academic difficulties. The goal of the current study was to evaluate perceived interpersonal relationship quality as a mediator of this association. Method: The current study investigated the indirect effect of posttraumatic stress on academic dysfunction through three indices of perceived interpersonal relationship quality (i.e., family distress, family support, and social network support) in a clinical sample of 2,120 student service members and veterans. Participants were further divided into four groups based on relationship status and gender (i.e., partnered women, nonpartnered women, partnered men, and nonpartnered men), and moderation by group was examined. Results: For all four groups, there were significant indirect effects of posttraumatic stress on academic dysfunction through greater family distress and lower social network support. Further, the overall indirect effect of posttraumatic stress on academic dysfunction was stronger for partnered women compared with the three other groups and was attributable to the stronger path from family distress to academic dysfunction for partnered women. Conclusions: Poor perceived relationship quality may be a modifiable risk factor for academic dysfunction among student service members and veterans experiencing military-related posttraumatic stress. Partnered women may be especially well-suited to interventions that enhance the interpersonal context of posttraumatic stress as a way to optimize academic outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-423
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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