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April 1984

Some Problems Associated With War Experience in Men of the Vietnam Generation

Author Affiliations

From the Vietnam Era Research Project, Center for Policy Research (Drs Yager and Laufer and Mr Gallops); the Department of Sociology, Brooklyn College/Graduate Center, City University of New York (Dr Laufer); and the Department of Sociology, Columbia University (Mr Gallops), New York.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1984;41(4):327-333. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1984.01790150017003

• A national sample of men who were of military age during the Vietnam War (n =1,342) was interviewed six to 15 years after veterans in the sample had left the service. Our findings showed that violent experiences in war were associated with a variety of behavioral and emotional problems. When preservice background factors were statistically controlled, combat exposure showed an association with arrests and convictions (generally for nonviolent offenses), with drinking, and with symptoms of traumatic stress. Participants in atrocities reported more stress symptoms and greater use of heroin and marijuana than did other veterans. Veterans who experienced no combat and did not take part in atrocities, however, did not differ appreciably from nonveterans. Not all men who experienced combat or took part in atrocities reported personal difficulties; almost three fourths of heavy-combat veterans were not arrested after the service. Tape recorded responses of the ten blacks and 18 whites who took part in atrocities suggested that soldiers' emotional responses may have been determined by their ability or inability to dehumanize the victims. Future research would benefit from a closer coordination of clinical and epidemiologic approaches.