Traumatic brain injury and relationship distress during military deployment and reunion

Leanne K. Knobloch, Bryan Abendschein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This study seeks to advance the literature by disentangling the effects of deployment-acquired traumatic brain injury (TBI) from comorbid postconcussive symptoms and PTSD symptoms on relationship distress. Background: Because TBI poses challenges to military marriages, understanding the predictors of relationship distress after TBI is important for helping service members cope with the effects of the injury. Method: Survey data from the U.S. Army STARRS Pre–Post Deployment Study, collected from 2,585 married service members before and after a combat deployment to Afghanistan, evaluated predictors of relationship distress 9 months after homecoming. Results: Deployment-acquired TBI corresponded with more relationship distress controlling for predeployment brain health, but its predictive power was eclipsed by concurrent postconcussive symptoms and concurrent PTSD symptoms. Concurrent PTSD symptoms accounted for twice as much variance in relationship distress than concurrent postconcussive symptoms. Conclusion: Targeting and treating comorbid conditions may be essential for supporting military marriages after TBI. Implications: Military command, policymakers, and medical professionals may find value in broadening support services for TBI to include resources addressing postconcussive symptoms, PTSD symptoms, and relationship distress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)424-440
Number of pages17
JournalFamily Relations
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • PTSD symptoms
  • marital dissatisfaction
  • military deployment
  • postconcussive symptoms
  • relationship distress
  • traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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