Complex trauma of war captivity: A prospective study of attachment and post-traumatic stress disorder

Z. Solomon*, R. Dekel, M. Mikulincer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. Victims of war captivity sometimes suffer from complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a unique form of PTSD that entails various alterations in personality. These alterations may involve changes in attachment orientation. Method. The sample comprised two groups of veterans from the 1973 Yom Kippur War: 103 ex-prisoners of war (ex-POWs) and 106 comparable control veterans. They were assessed at two points in time, 18 years and 30 years after the war. Results. Ex-POWs suffered from more post-traumatic symptoms than controls at both measurements points and these symptoms increased only among ex-POWs from Time 1 to Time 2. In addition, both attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance increased with time among ex-POWs, whereas they decreased slightly or remained stable among controls. Finally, the increases in attachment anxiety and avoidance were positively associated with the increase in post-traumatic symptoms among both study groups. Further analyses indicated that early PTSD symptoms predicted later attachment better than early attachment predicted later PTSD symptoms. Conclusions. The results suggest that: (1) complex traumas are implicated in attachment orientations and PTSD symptoms even many years after captivity; (2) there is an increase in attachment insecurities (anxiety, avoidance) and an increase in PTSD symptoms decades after the captivity; (3) and post-traumatic stress symptoms predict attachment orientations better than attachment orientations predict an increase in PTSD symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1427-1434
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Attachment
  • Complex trauma
  • POWs
  • Post-traumatic symptoms


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