Relationship conflict and partner violence by UK military personnel following return from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan

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Risk of violence by UK military personnel, both towards non-family and family, has been found to be higher post-deployment. However, no UK research to date has attempted to examine relationship conflict and intimate partner violence (IPV) in this period. This study estimated the prevalence of and risk factors for post-deployment relationship conflict and partner violence in UK military personnel.

We utilised data on military personnel who had deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan (n = 5437), drawn from a large cohort study into the health and well-being of UK military personnel.

34.7% reported relationship conflict (arguing with partner) and 3.4% reported perpetrating physical IPV post-deployment. Males were more likely than females to report relationship conflict. There were similar rates of self-reported physical IPV perpetration among males and females. Among our male sample, factors associated with both relationship conflict and physical IPV perpetration post-deployment included being in the Army compared with the Royal Air Force, higher levels of childhood adversity, higher levels of military trauma exposure and recent mental health and alcohol misuse problems. Being over 40 at time of deployment (vs being under 25) and having deployed in a combat role were also associated with relationship conflict, but not physical IPV perpetration.

Deployment-related variables and mental health and alcohol misuse problems were found to be key factors associated with post-deployment relationship conflict and IPV. Services providing health or welfare support to military personnel must collaborate with mental health services and consider history of deployment, and particularly deployment-related trauma, in their assessments to improve identification and management of intimate partner violence and abuse in military communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1795-1805
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number9
Early online date5 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


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