Objective: Over the past few decades, women's roles in the United States military have expanded significantly. Currently women encounter more wartime experiences during deployment than in the past. Previous research with male service members has linked exposure to wartime events to subsequent development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. However, because of the unique experiences of military women, research is needed to better understand the link between wartime experiences and mental health in female personnel. Methods: We examined the wartime experiences of deployed, active-duty female Airmen and their relations to PTSD. A large representative sample of active-duty female Air Force personnel, who responded to the U.S. Air Force Community Assessment Survey (CAS), was used to determine the relationships between wartime experiences and symptoms of PTSD. Previous research suggests the possibility that factors, including unit cohesion and self-efficacy, may mediate these relations. Results: Descriptive analyses indicate that the percentage of personnel experiencing PTSD symptoms increased as the number of wartime experiences increased. Logistic regression analyses revealed that wartime experiences were positively related to subsequent PTSD-related symptoms. Both unit cohesion and self-efficacy were negatively related to PTSD symptoms, but neither variable was found to moderate the relationship between wartime experiences and PTSD. Conclusions: Women are experiencing greater numbers of wartime experiences. Like men, as the number of wartime experiences increases, PTSD symptoms increase as well. Self-efficacy and unit cohesion were found to lower these symptoms, indicating that these factors may help decrease the negative impact of wartime experiences.
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