Domestic Abuse and Forgiveness among Military Spouses

Yael Lahav, Keith D. Renshaw, Zahava Solomon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Living with veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with elevated distress in spouses. Moreover, military spouses are at an elevated risk for domestic abuse, which might exacerbate their plight. Forgiveness is posited to have a healing effect for individuals, both in general as well as in the context of marital relations. Yet, the outcomes of forgiveness under conditions of ongoing abuse are not well understood. The current study fills this gap. Military spouses (n = 245) were assessed 30 (T1) and 38 (T2) years after the 1973 Yom-Kippur War. Abuse inflicted upon the spouses, spouses’ forgiveness, spouses’ distress (self-rated health and psychiatric symptomatology) and veterans’ PTSD symptoms were assessed. Domestic abuse was associated with spouses’ distress beyond the effect of the veterans’ PTSD. Furthermore, domestic abuse moderated the associations between forgiveness and distress. Whereas forgiveness predicted reduced distress among spouses who reported a lower frequency of domestic abuse, its effects were non-significant among spouses who reported a higher frequency of domestic abuse. Results imply that the protective effect of forgiveness dissolves in the face of an elevated frequency of ongoing abuse and that promoting forgiveness as a part of psychotherapy for individuals who undergo abuse might be ineffective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-260
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma
Issue number2
StatePublished - 7 Feb 2019


  • Combat
  • domestic abuse
  • forgiveness
  • generalized distress
  • trauma

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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