The role of interpersonal relationship functioning in trauma recovery is well-established. However, much of this research has been done with cross-sectional samples, often years after trauma exposure, using self-report methodology only, and is focused on intimate relationship adjustment.
The current study investigated the longitudinal associations between interpersonal (intimate and non-intimate) relationship functioning and clinician- and self-reported posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in 151 recently (within the past 6 months) traumatized individuals. Participants were assessed at four time points over 1 year.
Approximately 53% of the sample was diagnosed with PTSD at initial assessment, with declining rates of diagnostic status over time to 16%. Latent difference score (LDS) modeling revealed nonlinear declines in both clinician-assessed and self-reported PTSD symptom severity, with faster declines in earlier periods. Likewise, LDS models revealed nonlinear declines in negative (conflict) aspects of interpersonal relationship functioning, but linear declines in positive (support, depth) aspects. The relationship between PTSD and relationship functioning differed for clinician- and self-reported PTSD. Bivariate LDS modeling revealed significant cross-lagged effects from relationship conflict to clinician-assessed PTSD, and significant cross-lagged effects from self-reported PTSD to relationship conflict over time.
These results highlight that the variability in prior results may be related to the method of assessing PTSD symptomatology and different relational constructs. Implications for theory and early intervention are discussed.