Degree Date



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work and Social Research


Little research exists on the experiences of a combat-related injury that impairs fertility. This dissertation is a qualitative exploration of the lived experiences of military members after a genitourinary (GU) injury. It addresses the biological, psychological, and social impact on quality of life during recovery and subsequent attitudes about family development and sexual functioning. Building on both the life course perspective and the reproductive story model, this dissertation reviews literature on military culture, GU injury, and infertility to give a context to further analyze the essences of the phenomenon (Elder & Giele, 2009; Jaffe & Diamond, 2011).

This study is based on intensive interviews of 10 recent veterans from the post- 9/11 War on Terror. Through a phenomenological analysis approach, results suggest that the reproductive trauma is difficult to fully internalize, as it impacts many areas of life (i.e.-intimate relationship, sexual functioning, fertility). Yet, in the lived experience of these veterans, the GU injury is insufficiently addressed due to more critical health needs and the lack of medical resources to reverse testicular function. The reproductive trauma is often put aside until physical injuries are stabilized and some independence is regained. Finding meaning and purpose is a way to reconstruct the reproductive narrative.

The results of this study have implications for social work policy and practice, as well as future research, for persons who have experienced military-related GU injuries. Approaching this trauma-based experience through a reproductive narrative provides clinicians a tool to reconstruct the life course and manage the unknowns of this trauma.