Term of Award

Summer 2019

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Jeff Klibert

Committee Member 1

K. Bryant Smalley

Committee Member 2

Jacob Warren


The suicide rate in the United States has risen since 1999 (Curtin, Warner, & Hedegaard, 2016). This increase may be a distinct problem for military service members who may have an additional risk through combat exposure (Bryan et al., 2015). There is a need to identify protective factors for suicide broadly and specifically for military service members and veterans. There is emerging evidence that posttraumatic growth may be a protective factor for suicide ideation possibly buffering the effects of combat exposure on suicide ideation (Bush, Skopp, McCann, & Luxton, 2011). The current study was designed to further examine the relationship between combat exposure and suicide by examining the moderating effects of posttraumatic growth. A sample of 423 veterans participated in this correlational study by completing a series of online measures. Results indicated that posttraumatic growth had a significant inverse relationship with suicide ideation. In addition, combat exposure had a significant positive relationship with posttraumatic growth. Finally, age significantly accounted for variation in posttraumatic growth. However, the interaction effect between combat exposure and posttraumatic growth did not significantly account for variation in suicide ideation scores, suggesting that posttraumatic growth does not moderate the associated effects of combat exposure on suicide ideation. Clinically this suggests posttraumatic growth may be a target to reduce suicide ideation directly. However, posttraumatic growth does not seem to alter the effects of combat exposure on suicide ideation.

Research Data and Supplementary Material