Predictors of posttraumatic stress and appetitive aggression in active soldiers and former combatants

Background: During the period between 1993 and 2005, the people of Burundi were trapped within a violent civil war. In post-conflict regions, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were found to be widespread. At the same time, combatants often reported having perceived committing violence as exciting and appealing, an experience referred to as appetitive aggression. Both of these phenomena hamper the building of a functional and peaceful society.
Objective: This study aims to investigate the factors that are associated with the level of PTSD and appetitive aggression in former and still active combatants.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 948 male Burundians: 556 active soldiers and 392 ex-combatants. PTSD symptom severity was assessed using the PTSD Symptom Scale Interview, while appetitive aggression was assessed using the Appetitive Aggression Scale.
Results: Linear regression analyses revealed that the number of traumatic events, childhood maltreatment, and their interaction predicted PTSD symptom severity, whereas self-committed violence did not. The number of traumatic events and self-committed violence were associated with appetitive aggression. Childhood maltreatment alone was not associated with appetitive aggression; however, its interaction with self-committed violence did predict appetitive aggression. When controlling for predictors, ex-combatants reported a higher degree of PTSD symptomatology, whereas active soldiers reported a higher degree of appetitive aggression.
Conclusion: We conclude that childhood maltreatment is an additional, significant risk factor that exacerbates the psychological consequences of violent conflicts. Self-committed violence may not necessarily engender trauma-related disorders, but is highly related to appetitive aggression.

Corina Nandi, Anselm Crombach, Manassé Bambonye, Thomas Elbert, Roland Weierstall | 2015
In: European Journal of Psychotraumatology = ISSN 2000-8066 | 6