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Title: Narrative coherence and posttraumatic stress disorder symptomatology following combat in Iraq and Afghanistan
Author: Ogden, Suzanne
Awarding Body: University of Lincoln
Current Institution: University of Lincoln
Date of Award: 2010
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Background: Mental health problems have been identified to be the area of greatest need in the British military veteran population (The Royal British Legion, 2006). Troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are exposed to a number of traumatic stressors which might impact on their mental health. The most recognised PTSD population is the combat veteran (Miller, 2000) and the transition from the military to civilian life can be a challenging period for veterans as they develop a narrative of their experiences and incorporate this into their life story (Ormerod & Evans, 2008). Exposure to traumatic events and the experience of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been reported to affect narrative development (Wigren, 1994) which is implicated in coping after trauma. This study aimed to: (i) explore the characteristics of veterans' narratives following combat in Iraq and/or Afghanistan through the application of Burnell, Hunt and Coleman's (2009) model of narrative analysis; (ii) identify whether experience of PTSD symptoms affects narrative coherence; (iii) identify common experiences amongst this group of veterans; and (iv) identify factors which affect narrative coherence in this population. Method: This qualitative study used narrative analysis to explore these aims. Five male British armed forces veterans completed the Posttraumatic Stress Diagnostic Scale (PDS; Foa, 1995) and an individual narrative interview during which they were asked to discuss their experiences prior to deployment to Iraq/Afghanistan, their experiences in these areas of conflict and their life since returning to the UK and leaving the armed forces. Burnell 0910, RES, Research Report, UoL: 07091779, UoN: 4073816, Page 2 of 225 et al's (2009) model of narrative coherence coding was applied to the analysis to explore the characteristics of veterans' narratives and to determine narrative coherence. Results: None of the veterans' narratives were analysed to be coherent and due to the characteristics of the sample no conclusions could be drawn in relation to PTSD and narrative coherence. Although the narratives were descriptive and contained many of the factors of Burnell et al‟s model of analysis, one specific factor, relating to the recognition of temporal coherence, was absent from each of the narratives, rendering them incoherent. Although emotional evaluation was present in each narrative, descriptions of combat events rarely contained statements of emotion or emotional evaluation and a detachment from emotion and cognition during these events was reported. Work for the Special Forces negatively impacted on veterans' narratives by causing fragmentation as they tried to decipher the information they were prohibited to share. Three factors were identified to possibly affect the development of this sample of veterans narratives, including, emotional and cognitive disengagement during combat, opportunities to speak about their experiences and societal support. Conclusions: The findings of this study cannot explicitly support previous research relating to veterans' narrative coherence following exposure to trauma due to the small sample size. When applying Burnell et al's model to a younger cohort of veterans than those included in its development, adaptation is required in relation to recognition of temporal coherence. Factors other than trauma exposure are involved in the process of narrative development and integration.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: C800 Psychology