Growing up with a father with PTSD: The family emotional climate of the children of Australian Vietnam veterans
O’Toole, B., Dadds, M., Burton, M., Rothwell, A., & Catts, S. (2018). Growing up with a father with PTSD: The family emotional climate of the children of Australian Vietnam veterans. Psychiatry Research, 268, 175-183.
Objective: A non-clinical sample of male Australian Vietnam veterans, their wives, and adult offspring were interviewed in-person in a national epidemiological study to assess the relationship between the mental ill-health of veterans and the emotional climate of the family while the children were growing up.
Method: Veterans were assessed 17 years before their children using standardised psychiatric diagnostic interviews. Family emotional climate was assessed using offspring ratings of parental attachment, and codings of positive and negative family relationship styles based on five minute speech samples provided by the offspring.
Results: Sons and daughters had different views of their mothers and fathers, and were less positive towards their fathers particularly if he had posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Veteran PTSD and depression significantly negatively impacted the family emotional climate, while mothers’ mental health was not related. Veteran PTSD symptoms were lowest in secure attachment to the veteran and highest in inconsistent attachment for both sons and daughters, but were not related to attachment to the mother.
Conclusion: Veteran PTSD was related to daughters’ but not sons’ perceptions of family emotional climate. The impact of veterans’ PTSD on their families’ emotional climate is more marked for daughters than sons.