Overview of the Research Topic
This research will investigate the combat status and deployment of veterans subsequently involved in domestic violence cases among heterosexual couples. The research will seek to correlate combat status and deployment to subsequent domestic violence when the soldiers come home. Combat exposure is a term that refers to soldierâs involvement in battlefront confrontation and violence. Corvo and Johnson (2013) posit that war veterans are more at risk from posttraumatic stress more than ever before. Other problems that affect the mental health of war veterans include substance abuse lead to an increased risk of violence (Stappenbeck, Julianne, Simpson and Jakupcak, 2013; Corvo and Johnson, 2013). It has been theorized that the exposure of servicemen to significant psychological stressors during deployment is the cause of frequent emotional and mental disorder among this cohort (Stappenbeck et al., 2013). Elbogen, Johnson, Wagner, Sullivan, Taft and Beckham (2014) reported that soldiers returning from recent deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan were increasingly involved in cases of violence. Many scholars are interested in examining the roots of aggression among military veterans as media reports of violence act among soldiers increase.
The results of this research are important in the area of military psychology and will shed light on the psychological aspects of combat exposure that predict domestic violence. The findings of this study will provide useful insights to the healthcare, justice system and military policy makers. The information will assist in risk assessment and the development of preventive strategies that will be of great benefit to serving and veteran service members who have been exposed to combat. The aim of this study is to cultivate a culture that gets to the bottom of aggression by veterans, and place the origin of aggression in the context of their individual history. The study will also provide timely information that can enable domestic violence perpetrated by veteran service members to be easily understood. Consequently, the study will help in mitigating the health consequence of domestic violence perpetrated by war veterans.
Several studies have focused on the aggressive conduct of veterans and their correlation with the frontline experience of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan (Sullivan and Elbogen, 2014; MacManus et al., 2015). Sullivan and Elbogen (2014) reported that nine percent of the 1090 veterans surveyed in the study had shown violent behavior against a stranger, while 13 per cent had been aggressive towards family members. MacManus, Rona, Dickson, Somaini, Fear and Wessely (2015) carried out a meta-analysis of studies between 2001 and 2014 on the prevalence of aggression and violence among US and UK soldiers who had served in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. These studies focused on the role of deployment and exposure to violence in predicting violence after returning home. They also studied the mental problems that affect soldiers who have returned home from warzones. The studies revealed that aggression was a common problem among both serving and retired military personnel. According to MacManus et al (2015), nearly 10% of soldiers surveyed in the studies had been involved in an incident of physical assault while another 26% perpetrated other acts of aggression. The Meta-analysis also revealed that combat-exposed soldiers were more frequently perpetrators of aggressive acts. MacManus et al (2015) also reported that the studies established a small-to-moderate connection between post-deployment violence and aggression and combat exposure. However, very few studies have presented information about the ranks and the how the extent of combat exposure affects post-deployment aggression towards spouses, and consequently the frequency of domestic violence cases. It has been posited that exposure to violence may have desensitized soldiers to aggression and this is one angle of research that has not been explored by studies in this area of research.
Research Problem Background
Rennison, DeKeseredy, and Dragiewicz (2013) reported that intimate partner violence is a common consequence of domestic conflict between heterosexual couples regardless of whether they are separated, divorced, or still married. The study proposed two theories that explain the causes on intimate partner violence. First, men leverage violence and aggression as a means of gaining power and control over their partners. Secondly, violence may erupt suddenly as a result of arguments. It has been posited that stress and psychological distress is likely to increase the likelihood of domestic violence. Taft, Watkins, Stafford, Street and Monson (2011) studied the relationship between anger, stress and relationship feuds. The study reported that stress was the leading cause of relationship wrangles. Anger was also found to be an indicator of the likelihood of partners engaging in violence. MacManus et al (2012) tested a model that sought to explain the interrelationship between combat exposure, and posttraumatic stress disorder, and their combined impact on the likelihood of violence. The study revealed that a PTSD diagnosis was related to an increased likelihood of aggression.
War veterans have been shown to be suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PSTD) which has been associated with an increased risk of violence. Barrett, Teesson, and Mills (2014) conducted a study to investigate the link between PSTD, and substance abuse, and a subsequent increase in the risk of perpetuating violence. The study presented results that show PSTD presence increases the likelihood of violence perpetration. The study included measures of PSTD severity, anxiety and depression symptoms. Most importantly, the study reported that PSTD severity was independently associated with increase of risk of violence perpetration. The study linked PSTD Hyperarousal to increased aggression among patients. These results are supported by Taft, Kachadourian, Suvak, Pinto, Miller, Knight and Marx (2012) who reported that 50% of veteran study participants diagnosed with PSTD were perpetuators of domestic violence. Taft et al (2012) also reported that more than 91% of veterans showed potential to act violently against their spouses. The study reported that between 13 and 58 per cent of veterans who participated in his study had shown aggressive behaviors against their spouses. Taft et al (2012) also reported that PSTD was the most significant predictor of the possibility of a veteran perpetuating violence against spouses.
Corvo and Johnson (2013) carried out a study to explore a number of variables known to predict intimate partner violence. Part of the study involved exploring why violence against spouses was so high among veterans and service persons. The result showed that 15 per cent of soldiers sampled in the study had perpetuated an act of violence against a spouse. According to the study, veterans resulted to abuse as they were poorly educated, were stressed, and showed high levels of dissatisfaction with their relationships. McCarroll, Ursano, Liu, Thayer, Newby, Norwood and Fullerton (2010) indicated that deployments that are longer than one year significantly increased the risk of violence perpetuations. They also caused stress and psychological problems to the soldiers once they returned home. The study revealed that the intensity of violence and aggression increased as the length of deployment increased. Gallaway, Fink, Millikan and Bell (2012) reported that deployment and combat assignment were significant factors that increased the risk of intimate partner violence among veterans. However, many other factors including psychological problems and stress contributed to the domestic violence problem among veterans. Gallaway et al (2012) also call for other factors beyond combat exposure to be investigated to get to the bottom of the domestic violence problem that face many veteran families.
Majority of studies using veterans with PSTD or with other combat related mental problems reveal the close link between violence perpetuation and PSTD. According to Taft, Macdonald, Monson, Walling, Resick and Murphy (2013) more than half of veterans diagnosed with PSTD were perpetrators of domestic violence. Among male veteran, PSTD increases the risk of domestic violence perpetration by up to 3 times. Taft et al (2013) also reported that many veterans with diagnosed combat stress also reported an act of domestic violence one year after returning home.
This research background has been created after reviewing more than 75 sources on the subject of combat exposure and subsequent domestic violence cases. However, only a few of those articles could be used in composing the final research background for this study. The review of literature shows that domestic violence is a serious problem that affects the heterosexual relationships of soldiers who have come back from the frontline. This study will seek to link the soldierâs wartime experience with the likelihood of committing domestic violence.
The review of research discussed above reveals that their there has been little research exploring the extent of combat exposure and deployment status of ex-service persons and the likelihood to be engaged in intimate partner violence. This study will seek to address this gap in knowledge by answering the several research questions. The main research question addressed in the study will be:
- Does combat exposure increase the likelihood of a war veteran becoming a perpetrator of domestic violence?
Secondary research questions include:
- What is the extent of exposure to frontline violence and combat of military personnel who subsequently perpetrate domestic violence?
- Does exposure to combat and violence desensitize soldiers to violence?
Purpose of the Study
The media has reported increasing cases of domestic violence and aggression perpetrated by veterans of war. These disturbing results make research into the cause of the problem necessary and urgent. Could the violence soldiers are exposed to be a cause of the aggression and sometimes violence they exhibit in their intimate relationships? In many cases, veterans have difficulties in maintaining intimate relationship and their partners are confronted by violence, aggression and animosity. In extreme cases, former service personnel have murdered or seriously injured their partners. The purpose of this research is to establish whether exposure to combat and deployment to frontlines has a link to the perpetration of domestic violence by military personnel post-deployment.
This research is designed as a quantitative correlation study as it seeks to establish a correlation between combat exposure and the likelihood of military personnel becoming domestic violence perpetrators post-deployment. According to Creswell (2005), âa correlation is a statistical test used to determine the tendency or pattern for two (or more) variables or two sets of data to vary consistentlyâ (p.325). In correlations studies, researcher provides theories that explain the observed correlation between variables utilized in the study.
Data collection and sampling procedures
This study will utilize online surveys to collect the primary data needed to establish the relationship between the research variables. The online survey will be obtained and completed through SurveyMonkey. SurveyMonkey will be chosen as it provides free customizable online surveys, and one can view the results immediately once the surveys are completed. The researcher will contact veteran community organizations and co-operate with them in informing potential respondents on the site where the survey forms will be available. The study will select a random sample of 100 veterans among all those who complete the online survey. Online surveying will enable the researcher overcome several limitations that characterize physical data gathering. Online survey means that the researcher will not be required to prepare and ask his respondents to complete written consent forms. Secondly, the study will be able to collect data anonymously without identifying the respondents, an advantage that cannot be achieved by use of physical data collection (Crow and Wiles, 2008).
Population and Sample
The study will target a population of ex-servicemen previously deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq. G-Power will be used to calculate the sample needed for effective research on the topic. Purposive sampling will be employed to obtain a sample of 100 servicemen who had served in the two conflicts. Recruitment for the study will be done through a public campaign in conjunction with war veteran organizations and regions. The veteran organization will be responsible for informing their member about the study and its potential benefit to suffering veterans. The study will notify the 100 participants randomly chosen from those who answer the survey of their acceptance as respondents for the study.
Construct 1: combat exposure. Variable: Combat exposure. Operational definition: Combat Exposure Scale scores
Construct 2: domestic violence. Variable: domestic violence. Operational definition: Conflict Tactics Scale scores.
Combat exposure is defined as a situation where a person has been involved in warfront confrontations including firing weapons at human targets, seeing people enemies and colleague die, experiencing wartime injuries, and escaping death by a whisker (Kimbrel, Evans, Patel, Wilson, Meyer, Gulliver and Morissette, 2014).
Domestic violence is defined as acts which have the intention of causing fear, injury, or exerting emotional or psychological pain (Cerulli, Poleshuck, Raimondi, Veale and Chin, 2012). Domestic violence has the objective of controlling a present or former spouse through intimidation. Domestic violence includes physical assault, verbal abuse and threats of physical violence. Cerulli et al (2012) considers all acts that interfere with the personal liberty if intimate partners to be domestic violence.
Combat exposure is described as an assignment to life threatening military operations including firing rounds at enemy combatants and other danger undertakings (Rosenthal, Grosswald, Ross and Rosenthal, 2012). This study will measure combat exposure by using a sliding scale of 7 combat exposure scale. A five-point frequency scale is used to represent the extent to exposure to each of the item. 5 is used where a person has never been exposed to physical violence, and 1 represents exposure to combat exposure item more that five times.
The Conflict Tactics Scale is used to measure domestic violence victimization as well as the effect of three domestic violence tactics: physical assault, psychological aggression, and negotiation.
This study will explore the supposed correlation between veteran soldiersâ wartime combat exposure and consequent domestic violence directed at their heterosexual spouses. The study will use combat exposure as the independent variable while domestic violence will be the dependent variable. Data collection instruments employed for this study comprise of the Combat exposure Scale, and the Conflict Tactics scale. The Combat Exposure scale is a seven item questionnaire first developed for use in research pertaining to the wartime experiences of Vietnam veterans (Kimbrell et al, 2014). Data on the dependent variable will be collected using the Conflict Tactic Scale. This instrument applies self-reporting to seek information from participants in regard to exhibiting certain behaviors in the past year. In this study, the participants will be asked to self-report on aggressive behaviors towards their spouses. The Conflict Tactics scale is a popular instrument for researchers carrying out studies on domestic violence victimization, and the extent of psychological aggression, physical assault, and negotiation (Straus and Mckey, 2012). The scale is also utilized to measure sexual coercion, and the extent of injury caused by intimate partner. The scale utilizes 80 items that measure the extent of violence and conflict in intimate relationships.
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