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J Marital Fam Ther. 2001 Oct;27(4):433-44.

Secondary traumatic stress, psychological distress, sharing of traumatic reminiscences, and marital quality among spouses of Holocaust child survivors.

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Department of Social Work, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, P.O. Box 653, 84105 Beer-Sheva, Israel.


In this study, we examined the issue of secondary traumatic stress (STS) among spouses of Holocaust survivors who were children during the World War II. STS is defined as comprising the same components as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), except that the person evidencing the symptoms has not actually been exposed to the traumatic event(s), but has developed them as a result of caring for someone with PTSD. Participants were 90 couples who completed self-report questionnaires regarding posttraumatic symptoms, psychological distress, and marital quality. The results showed that about one-third of the spouses suffered from some degree of STS symptoms. Secondary traumatic stress symptoms and psychological distress among spouses were significantly related to hostility, anger, paranoia, and interpersonal sensitivity in the survivor, but unrelated to whether the survivor had shared his/her reminiscences with the spouse. Female spouses were found to suffer more distress than male spouses, especially when their partner suffered high levels of PTSD. The results suggest that STS is, to a large degree, related to the demands of living with a symptomatic survivor, possibly more than to the empathic element thought to be central to this syndrome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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