Higher Rates of Intimate Partner Aggression in Female Veterans Than Male Veterans

The number of women who serve in the military and engage in combat is at an all-time high. The serious negative psychological consequences of being exposed to combat situations are well documented in male and female veterans. Those who return from war zones are at increased risk for many mental health problems, including posttraumatic stress, depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and intimate partner aggression. Although there have been many studies that have shown links between combat service and aggression in intimate relationships, few studies have examined how psychological problems resulting from combat influence this behavior in male and female veterans independently. Additionally, until now, there has been little research examining how childhood traumas combined with combat outcome affects the potential for a veteran to engage in aggressive behaviors. In order to address this gap, Lissa Dutra of the Women’s Health Sciences Division of the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Massachusetts led a study that looked specifically at female veteran aggression and if specific mental health conditions predicted that behavior.

Dutra and her colleagues assessed the level of psychological and physical intimate partner aggression in female veterans by looking at combat experience, rates of aggression by the veteran and the partner, mental health issues, and childhood traumas. Of the 89 veterans in her study, Dutra found that female veterans and their male partners engaged in psychological aggression, but the female veterans were more likely to be physically aggressive toward their partners than the males. Specifically, nearly one-fourth of the female veterans had admitted to being physically aggressive, even though less than half of those veterans’ partners had been physically aggressive toward them. Dutra also found that among all of the mental health issues examined in her study, only depression was directly related to intimate partner aggression. Dutra believes it is imperative, during a time in which more women are being exposed to wartime combat, to continue research in this area, with more studies aimed at identifying predictors of physical aggression. She added, “Such studies can be employed to help determine the generalizability of the present findings to new veteran cohorts, as well as to assist in the development of assessment, prevention, and intervention efforts targeting intimate partner aggression for both female and male veterans.”

Dutra, L., de Blank, G., Scheiderer, E., Taft, C. (2012, January 23). Correlates of Female Veterans’ Perpetration of Relationship Aggression. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026849

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  • Cole


    January 26th, 2012 at 6:02 PM

    Now this is something that takes me by surprise. I think that for a long time the stereotype has been that male vets coming home were prone to going off at the drop of a hat and that their partners better watch out for this kind of violent and aggressive behavior. But now it looks like this might not be the case and that men with retirning wives ought to be the ones on the lookout for this kind of iolence. Maybe it has to do with the different ways that women process that violence that they have seen or that they have a harder time disassociating themselves from the memories that they retain from their time at war. Either way it is something that could cause a great deal of concern to many families as more soldiers are slated to return home soon, looking for that normalcy that seems to elude so many of them.

  • Ellen


    January 27th, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    Kind of taking the whole I am woman hear me roar thing to the extreme, don’t you think?

  • G.N


    January 29th, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    Hmm.There could also be the “i am a woman and I need to prove that i can be just as tough” in the minds of women in the armed forces and that in turn comes into play at home too? It mostly is a psychological thing and it can definitely be overcome with some work if you ask me.

  • margaret rodey

    margaret rodey

    October 6th, 2012 at 10:03 AM

    COMPLAINT I am a vet and I had to see a therapist in 1996. She faked an MMPI exam on me by asking me about 5 – 6 questions on each of two visits and answered questions for me behind my back stating to me that she knew me better than I knew myself. Now that the va has me ‘down’ for 13 different mental illnesses (many of these are duplicates of the same illness) because of her, they will not accept a real MMPI I paid to have done at my own expense. She is responsible for getting me fired and I subsequently lost my apartment and my belongings and my son our pets and everything I owned. I had to rebuild from scratch. Actually I do need a therapist who could care. but I don’t have funds at this time.

  • lisa w.

    lisa w.

    June 21st, 2015 at 5:54 PM

    Is your son jimmy? Please contact me asap.

    Niece lisa

  • margaret rodey

    margaret rodey

    October 6th, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    I don’t know where to turn as this woman has slandered me on line and now has alot of people at the VA believing her and calling me a liar. When I explained to this woman that i had been raped, she told me I didn’t look like I was worth her wasting her time on me and then she told me to stand up andturn around in the middle of the room under thrreat of calling the VA police onme if I didn’t, and when I did this, she stated, “Just like I thought, you dont’ look like your good enough for a man to risk losing his retiremment for.” How do you argue with that kinnd of logic she wasn’t there at the time I was being raped so how would she know? But she told me she doesn’t have to be as thats what her degree is for it ‘sees’ the truth.

  • Elvis


    January 27th, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    Mens rights activists have been saying this for years.

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