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Veterans With Post Concussion Symptoms at Higher Risk to Commit Intimate Partner Violence

January 05, 2022

Military veterans who suffer persistent symptoms following a concussion are at higher risk to commit intimate partner violence (IPV), according to a new Yale study.

Yale researchers at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven conducted a survey of more than 800 veterans who sought follow up care after a head injury. Almost half reported committing IPV against a loved one.

The researchers concluded that after controlling for common predictors of IPV, including binge drinking, marijuana use, pain intensity, and probable post-traumatic stress disorder, post concussion symptoms were the most significant predictor of IPV perpetration.

“Given post-9/11 veterans’ elevated risk for head injury, our findings demonstrate that the assessment and treatment of persistent post concussion symptoms can be a path to decreasing IPV perpetration and increasing relationship functioning,” said Galina A. Portnoy, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine. “Understanding IPV perpetration in the context of veterans' post-service injuries also offers a holistic conceptualization and reduces stigma, which can lead to enhanced opportunities for targeted intervention.”

The study, “Longitudinal Analysis of Persistent Postconcussion Symptoms, Probable TBI, and Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration Among Veterans,” was published January 5 in a special issue of The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation that focusses on IPV and brain injury.

Portnoy, the study’s lead author, is director of the IPV Center for Innovation and Research at the VA. The center is a national IPV Assistance Program Innovation Hub which develops, disseminates, implements and evaluates innovative, high-quality, veteran-centered, trauma-informed, and recovery-oriented practices for IPV detection, prevention, and treatment.

IPV refers to threatened or actual physical, sexual, or psychological harm or stalking by a current or former partner or spouse. Researchers say physicians will be better positioned to prevent IPV if they can better understand how persistent post concussion symptoms affect behavior.

“We recommend that assessing and treating head injury in clinical practice should go beyond education and symptom management to include targeted treatment of persistent post concussion symptoms, including relationship health and safety,” Portnoy said.

Other Yale researchers who participated in the study were Mark R. Relyea, PhD; Candice Presseau, PhD; Skye Orazietti, MSW; Steve Martino, PhD; Cynthia A. Brandt, MD, MPH; and Sally G. Haskell, MD.

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on January 05, 2022