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Health & Medicine

Could Childhood Trauma Lead to More PTSD in Soldiers, Veterans & Others? New Syracuse Univ Research


Most of us have heard of PTSD – the trauma experienced by soldiers who return from the violence, loss and other impacts of war.  A Syracuse University researcher is arguing for a broader definition and understanding of the condition … that could lead to prevention. 

When Doctor Kenneth Marfilius was working in an Air Force Mental Health clinic, he found that many young service members had a more complex set of experiences that made them more likely to show post-traumatic stress syndrome.

“In addition to everyday stressors in the military culture, they brought predisposing factors and vulnerabilities to include childhood trauma related to possible neglect or physical or sexual abuse, having a parent with a mental disorder, or experience domestic violence in the home.”  

Those past traumas could make the soldier more likely to get PTSD from combat situations.  

Marfilius is a teaching professor in S-U’s Falk School of Human Dynamics.  He says a broader understanding of what might cause the psychological condition could lead to steps to prevent it in advance … starting with factors early on to help youth live a safe, healthy and stable life.

“(Factors could include)…positive early education programs, parent support groups, mentoring, job or employment training.  So in addition to that, access to mental health, medical and dental care.  Really laying down this foundation to allow these child and adolescents to thrive, (and) learn to be resilient in the face of adversity.”

And dealing with a person with trauma can be uneven for a civilian with PTSD.  A soldier or veteran has much more in the way of care available to them.

“In addition to treatment services, cutting-edge treatment (at VA Medical Centers), they also have access to some level of disability compensation.  And on the civilian side of things, the medical field, there is some catching up to do, but I do believe that we’re well on our way.” 

Another point Marfilius makes is the impact PTSD has not only on the victim, but on families and society.  Awareness around those factors, he believes, can lead to progress in care and prevention.