April 1980

Self-concept Changes Related to War Captivity

Author Affiliations

From the Neuropsychiatry Branch, United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, Brooks Air Force Base, Tex. Dr Sledge is now with the Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn. Col Boydstun is Hospital Commander, Fairchild AFB, Washington.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1980;37(4):430-443. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1980.01780170072008

• A questionnaire was mailed to all US Air Force repatriated prisoners of the Vietnam war (POWs) still on active duty, and to matched controls, in the fall of 1976. Results were analyzed to determine long-term consequences of the war imprisonment experience. We hypothesized that individuals experiencing the greatest stress and frustration might believe they gained more psychologically than those less stressed. The questionnaire results indicated a distinct subgroup of POWs for which this was particularly true, although the subjective sense of feeling somehow "benefited" by the experience was by no means universal. This study supports the hypothesis that the subjective sense of having benefited from the experience of war imprisonment is positively correlated with the harshness of the experience.