Understanding Gender Differences in Resilience Among Veterans: Trauma History and Social Ecology


This paper explores gender differences when it comes to resilience among veterans. This exploration is framed within the context of trauma history and social ecology.


A social-ecological framework for resilience underscores the importance of conceptualizing individuals embedded within their context whenevaluating a person’s vulnerability and adaptation to stress. Despite a high level of trauma exposure, most veterans exhibit psychologicalresilience following a traumatic event. Interpersonal trauma is associated with poorer psychological outcomes than noninterpersonaltrauma and is experienced more frequently across the lifespan by women as compared to men. In the present study, we examined genderdifferences in trauma exposure, resilience, and protective factors among veterans. Participants included 665 veterans who completeda baseline survey assessing traumatic events; 544 veterans (81.8%) completed a 1-year follow-up survey assessing resilience, combatexposure, deployment social support, deployment preparedness, and military sexual trauma (MST). Principal component analyses revealedthe Traumatic Life Events Questionnaire categorized into four meaningful components: sexual abuse, interpersonal violence, strangerviolence, and accidents/unexpected trauma. Women reported greater exposure to sexual abuse,d=0.76; interpersonal violence,d=0.31;and MST, Cramer’sV=0.54; men reported greater exposure to stranger violence, accidents/unexpected trauma, and combat exposure,ds=0.24–0.55. Compared to women, men also reported greater social support during deployment,d=0.46. Hierarchical linear regressionindicated that men’s resilience scores were higher than women’s,β=.10,p=.032, yet this association was no longer significant once weaccounted for trauma type,β=.07,p=.197. Results indicate that trauma type is central to resilience and suggest one must consider thesocial-ecological context that can promote or inhibit resilient processes.

Full Reference

Portnoy, G. A., Relyea, M. R., Decker, S., Shamaskin-Garroway, A., Driscoll, M., Brandt, C. A. and Haskell, S. G., 2018. Understanding Gender Differences in Resilience Among Veterans:Trauma History and Social Ecology. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 31, pp. 845-855.