The Contribution of Empathy to the Adjustment of Military Veterans and Their Female Partners

Alana Siegel, Rachel Dekel, Vlad Svetlitzky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: Empathy plays an important role in romantic relationships; and thus, this study examined the contribution of both Israeli male military veterans' and their female partners' cognitive and emotional empathy to both partners' adjustment defined as posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and functioning, comparing veterans who asked for mental health help and a comparison group of veterans who did not. Method: Participants were 300 Israeli male veterans of the 2006 Israel–Lebanon War and their female partners, all of whom completed self-report questionnaires. Results: Results demonstrated significant differences between the models in the groups. Among the male veterans in the research group, higher levels of veterans' own emotional and cognitive empathy were associated with higher levels of their PTSS and lower levels of functioning. In the comparison group, females' Personal Distress and Fantasy subscales of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index were positively associated with their own PTSS, whereas the Empathic Concern subscale was negatively associated. Females' Perspective-Taking served as a protective factor only for those in the research group and was negatively associated with females' PTSS. In each of the models, the cross effects (from one partner to the other) were limited. Conclusion: The various facets of empathy and its dyadic nature appear to play a different role in the adjustment of each partner in military couples. The associations among the research group were stronger than in the comparison group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-451
Number of pages15
JournalFamily Relations
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 National Council on Family Relations


  • Dyadic
  • PTSS
  • empathy
  • functioning
  • secondary trauma
  • veterans


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