Secondary traumatization of partners of war veterans: The role of boundary ambiguity

Rachel Dekel, Yoav Levinstein, Alana Siegel, Shimon Fridkin, Vlad Svetlitzky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The existing literature has shown that war veterans' posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms are associated with a higher level of distress in their female partners. However, less agreement exists regarding the sources of this distress and the mechanism by which this process occurs. The current study examined the consequences of Israeli war veterans' PTSD on their female partners, as manifested by the females' PTSD symptoms, mental health status, and functioning, while taking into account females' earlier traumatic events. Using the theory of ambiguous loss, it also suggested boundary ambiguity as a mediating variable by which the PTSD of the male veteran is transmitted to his female partner. Participants were 300 men who had served in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War and their female partners. Results revealed direct associations between males' PTSD and their female partners' PTSD, functioning, and mental health. In addition, boundary ambiguity mediated the association between males' PTSD and females' adjustment. Finally, females' own earlier traumatic events were directly associated with their own PTSD symptoms. Implications of this model for intervention and research are further discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-71
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2016


  • Ambiguous loss
  • Marriage
  • PTSD
  • Secondary traumatization
  • Veterans


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