Perceived danger during deployment: A Rasch validation of an instrument assessing perceived combat exposure and the witnessing of combat consequences in a war zone

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The potential stressors associated with military deployment are related to an increased risk of adverse mental health outcomes. Perceived exposure to combat has been found to be proportional to the severity of post-deployment posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, other perceived adversities during deployment, such as witnessing danger, distress, and hardship in the war zone, have been less systematically studied, but might play an equally substantial role for post-deployment mental health. The development and validation of scales that assess these related constructs are needed to distinguish their contribution to post-deployment risk of PTSD. We evaluated the validity of 10 items measuring perceived danger distributed to all deployed personnel with the Danish Defense since 1998. We hypothesize two scales: Exposure to Danger and Combat (EDC) and Witnessing Consequences of War (WCW). Two military cohorts deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 (Cohort 1, N = 276) and 2013 (Cohort 2, N = 273) were included. Questionnaire data was collected six months after homecoming, including deployment experiences and post-deployment reactions. We tested the construct validity of the 10 items of perceived danger with Rasch models (RM), focusing specifically on presence of subscales, and differential item functioning (DIF) across cohorts. We confirmed the existence of two separate subscales, EDCS and WCWS, both with adequate reliability. None of the subscales fitted a pure RM, but adequate fit was found for graphical log-linear RMs with evidence of DIF for the ECDS. However, adjusting the score to account for DIF had practically no effect, suggesting that the total non-adjusted mean score can be used in future cohort comparisons. Perceived exposure to combat and danger and witnessing consequences of war are related, but essentially distinct, concepts, each providing unique information about deployment adversities. Future studies should evaluate their shared and unique contribution to the risk of post-deployment PTSD.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1487224
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychotraumatology
Issue number1
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2018

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - Item response theory (IRT), Rasch model (RM), combat stress exposure, military personnel, psychometrics, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), military

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