Dimensionality, reliability and validity of a measure of combat experience
Guyker, Wendy M.
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By and large, the history of measurement of combat experience, including recent history, has been at the macro level (e.g., in terms of number of injuries, casualties, exposure to combat). However, with the recognition of new kinds of combat and resulting psychological sequelae, there is a need for more subjective measures at the level of the individual. Existing measures of combat exposure are primarily from the Vietnam era. The current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq pose unique experiences of combat trauma. The Combat Experiences Scale (CES) is a 33-item measure that assesses exposure to combat. Compared to previous measures of combat exposure, its breadth and depth are promising. However, the psychometrics of this measure are not yet known. The purpose of this study was to examine aspects of the internal and external validity of the CES. Data was collected from participants in a study of brain injuries related to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan across five VA medical centers in upstate New York (N=500). An exploratory factor analysis suggested that three factors represented the scale well: exposure to combat environment, physical engagement, and proximity to serious injury and death. The CES also showed adequate reliability (internal consistency). Finally, evidence of construct validity was evaluated to estimate convergent and discriminant validity of the Combat Experience scales by examination of correlations with demographic and war experience scales as well as cognitive, affective and behavioral measures. The CES dimensions appear to advance our understanding of combat experience; in particular, that deployment-related experiences ought to be conceptualized broadly and encompass experiences above and beyond direct combat.