The Impact of Aggression On the Relationship Between Betrayal and Belongingness Among U.S. Military Personnel

Rachel L. Martin, University of Southern Mississippi
Claire Houtsma, University of Southern Mississippi
AnnaBelle O. Bryan, National Center for Veterans Studies
Craig J. Bryan, National Center for Veterans Studies
Bradley A. Green, University of Southern Mississippi
Michael D. Anestis, University of Southern Mississippi


The suicide rate among U.S. military personnel, particularly within the Army National Guard, is significantly higher than the rate found among the general population. To better understand why the Army National Guard has elevated rates of suicide, the current study examined how deployment-related moral injury interacts with interpersonal factors to predict suicide risk. Specifically, this study hypothesized that deployment-related betrayal, a facet of the Moral Injury Events Scale, would predict thwarted belongingness and that this relationship would be moderated by several types of aggression (physical aggression, verbal aggression, hostility, and anger). The current sample comprised 562 military personnel who had experienced at least 1 previous deployment. Results revealed that betrayal predicted thwarted belongingness in the presence of high but not low or mean levels of aggression among military personnel. This indicates that aggressive individuals who experience perceived betrayal while deployed may be at high risk for development of thwarted belongingness, an important risk factor for suicide. These results suggest the need for better assessment and treatment of betrayal among military personnel, as well as the need for programs to help soldiers manage aggression.