Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Understanding Families of Adults with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Measure of Service and Support Needs Grounded in Family Members' Experience

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Catherine Stein (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Jenny Toonstra (Other)

Third Advisor

Dara Musher-Eizenman (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Carolyn Tompsett (Committee Member)


The present research examined the perceived service and support needs of family members (i.e., partners, parents, other relatives) of individuals with PTSD. A major goal of the present research was to develop a self-report inventory of family needs suitable for assessment, research, and clinical uses. The present research consisted of two studies using independent samples of adult family members. Study 1 is a qualitative study that examined the personal accounts of services and supports reported as needs by 47 family members of people with PTSD. Thematic analysis of these accounts indicated that family members experienced a wide array of needs including Information Needs, Health and Wellness Needs, Service Type Needs, Service Quality Needs, Relationship Needs, and Community Needs. Grounded in the experiences of family members, the PTSD Family Support Needs Inventory (PFSNI), a 58 item self-report measure was developed for Study 2 that consisted of six domains to assess the degree of unmet family member needs. Study 2 examined psychometric properties of the PFSNI using an independent sample of 135 family members of adults living with PTSD. To help establish the validity of the PFSNI, Study 2 examined how scores on the PFSNI related to self-report measures that could help demonstrate criterion validity (PTSD Understanding measure), convergent validity (measures of Knowledge about PTSD, Caregiving Personal Gain, Caregiving Overload, Caregiving Burden, and Family Coping with PTSD), and discriminant validity (Social Desirability measure). The PFSNI demonstrated acceptable internal item consistency across needs domains and test-retest reliability over a two-week period. Exploratory hierarchical multiple regression analyses indicated that, even after accounting for demographics and severity of impact of PTSD and mental health on the family, the degree of participant unmet needs reported on the PFSNI significantly predicted family members’ reports of well-being (i.e., Caregiving Overload) and behavioral responses to PTSD and stress (i.e., PTSD Understanding and Family Coping). Implications of study findings for future research and clinical interventions are discussed.