Impact on families

How does PTSD impact on families?

A diagnosis of any mental disorder can have considerable impact not only on the affected individual, but also on the people closest to them. Sometimes family members experience burden, particularly during acute phases of the illness. Burden is considered in terms of objective effects, such as illness severity or financial strain, but also in terms of subjective effects, such as the emotional impact of the illness on family members.

What is the evidence for the impact on family members of people with PTSD?

Moderate to high quality evidence finds small to medium-sized associations between increased PTSD symptoms and increased interpersonal violence, poor functioning, relationship problems, and more partner psychological distress.

High quality evidence finds a medium-sized association between increased parental PTSD symptoms and increased child psychological distress. This relationship was strongest in studies with parent-child pairs who were both exposed to interpersonal trauma. Moderate to high quality evidence finds a medium-sized association between increased parental PTSD symptoms and increased child PTSD symptoms. This relationship was stronger in studies of maternal rather than paternal PTSD symptoms, in studies using parent interview rather than self-report measures, in studies using same mode rather than different mode of assessment for parents and children, and in longitudinal studies rather than cross-sectional studies.

There was also a medium-sized association between increased parental PTSD symptoms and increased family difficulties (parenting problems, maladaptive family functioning, and child symptoms). This relationship was strongest in studies with retrospective or concurrent design, in studies using child or veteran parent measures of child outcomes, and in studies assessing emotional problems, total symptoms, or externalising symptoms.

August 2021

Image: ©Stillfx – stock.adobe.com

Last updated at: 10:30 pm, 1st August 2021
To view documentation related to this topic download the files below
Fact Sheet Technical Commentary

NeuRA Libraries

Title Colour Legend:
Green - Topic summary is available.
Orange - Topic summary is being compiled.
Red - Topic summary has no current systematic review available.