ArticlePDF Available

Supporting Military Families - A Comparative Study in Social Support Arrangements for Military Families (Theoretical Dimensions and Empirical Comparison between Countries)

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

Seeking social support is one of the ways people use to cope with stressful situations. Sometimes people have extensive social networks and do not need support from the organization. Sometimes the organization can stimulate and facilitate informal family support groups. The effectiveness of social support has been much discussed by many scholars (Bell, Segal & Rice, 1995; Cohen & Wills, 1985; Rosen & Moghadam, 1990). Desylva and Gal (1996) already started exploring solutions in order to overcome the conflict between families and the military organization. They focussed mainly on family structures. We hope to bring the discussion a little bit further by focusing on structures of social support networks. From our research concerning social support certain findings were replicated over and over again (Moelker & Cloin, 1997). In the 2001-survey we again found that 64% agreed to the statement "the support from family, friends and neighbors is more useful to me than the family support rendered by the army". 39% thinks that family support group meetings are useful, but 63% never visited them. In general family support is very much appreciated, but people tend to think that it is more useful to others than to themselves. These findings raise the question how family support should be organized so that it is as efficient and effective as can be. Exchange theory can provide an answer to this question whilst taking into account that the needs of individuals will differ. What is effective and efficient support to one individual will not be same for someone else.
Content may be subject to copyright.
RTO-MP-HFM-134 18 - 1
Supporting Military Families – A Comparative Study in Social Support
Arrangements for Military Families (Theoretical Dimensions &
Empirical Comparison between Countries)
Dr R. Moelker, Ms. M. Andres MSc, Ms. G.J.A. Poot BA
Royal Netherlands Military Academy
Postbox 90002 4800PA Breda
THE NETHERLANDS
r.moelker@nlda.nl / m.d.andres@nlda.nl / gja.poot@nlda.nl
ABSTRACT
Seeking social support is one of the ways people use to cope with stressful situations. Sometimes people
have extensive social networks and do not need support from the organization. Sometimes the
organization can stimulate and facilitate informal family support groups. The effectiveness of social
support has been much discussed by many scholars (Bell, Segal & Rice, 1995; Cohen & Wills, 1985;
Rosen & Moghadam, 1990). Desylva and Gal (1996) already started exploring solutions in order to
overcome the conflict between families and the military organization. They focussed mainly on family
structures. We hope to bring the discussion a little bit further by focusing on structures of social support
networks.
From our research concerning social support certain findings were replicated over and over again
(Moelker & Cloïn, 1997). In the 2001-survey we again found that 64% agreed to the statement ‘the
support from family, friends and neighbors is more useful to me than the family support rendered by the
army’. 39% thinks that family support group meetings are useful, but 63% never visited them. In general
family support is very much appreciated, but people tend to think that it is more useful to others than to
themselves. These findings raise the question how family support should be organized so that it is as
efficient and effective as can be. Exchange theory can provide an answer to this question whilst taking into
account that the needs of individuals will differ. What is effective and efficient support to one individual
will not be same for someone else.
1. INTRODUCTION
We know much about military families, the way they respond to living in ‘garrison’-conditions or to
deployment of the soldier in the family. We know much about the stress they experience and their coping
behaviour. The psychological theory that concerns the military family (mainly stress theory) is quite well
developed. Social psychology makes a contribution with research into the field of social support. In
contrast, sociological theory only delivers a very thin description of the phenomenon ‘military family’.
The best sociological concepts which were applied to the military family stem from the work of Lewis
Coser on the ‘greedy institution. It was Segal who first saw the importance of this concept for military
families (Coser, 1974; Segal, 1986; Moelker and Cloïn, 1996). This work is important, but it is only a
beginning. There is a need for, as anthropologists call it, ‘thick’ sociological description of the military
family. Coser and Segal are the giants on whose shoulders we should stand, whose work we have to
elaborate empirically and theoretically.
Moelker, R.; Andres, M.; Poot, G.J.A. (2006) Supporting Military Families – A Comparative Study in Social Support Arrangements for
Military Families (Theoretical Dimensions & Empirical Comparison between Countries). In Human Dimensions in Military Operations –
Military Leaders’ Strategies for Addressing Stress and Psychological Support (pp. 18-1 – 18-14). Meeting Proceedings RTO-MP-HFM-134,
Paper 18. Neuilly-sur-Seine, France: RTO. Available from: http://www.rto.nato.int/abstracts.asp.
Supporting Military Families – A Comparative
Study in Social Support Arrangements for Military Families
(Theoretical Dimensions & Empirical Comparison between Countries)
18 - 2 RTO-MP-HFM-134
Our knowledge of family affairs is augmenting still, but do we really understand the military family? It
appears that research is often based on quantitative data collection methods. Theory is dominated by
psychology. Knowledge and insights from other disciplines like sociology, anthropology or even
economics (There is research on military families that departs from the economic perspective. An example
is Lakhani, 1994) are seldom integrated. The knowledge that is being produced does not always offer new
insights or better understanding. New theoretical approaches that depart from interdisciplinary research is
necessary.
In section 2 the psychological state of the art in family research is presented in a nutshell. In the third
section some ideas for integrating sociological theory into the already existing body of knowledge will be
discussed. These ideas combine much of previous findings from research and theoretical reflection by
authors/researchers in the field of family research.
2. THE MODEL FOR FAMILY STRESS
The prevailing model of stress among families, the so-called double ABC-X model (Hill, 1949; McCubbin
and Patterson, 1982) is the fruit of military psychological research. Family therapy and ideas on the
operation of stress in civilian families are also based on this research. Surveys among the female
population in general reveal that a separation period of this kind comes in third place on the list of the
most stressful events (Homes and Rahe, 1967). Only the death of a partner or divorce score higher. That
means that every military family experiences a fairly high level of stress during the period that the
serviceman is deployed abroad. Separation is stressful in it self. This becomes clear when the deployment
is doubled in length (one year in stead of the normal length of ½ year) as is the case with IFOR. Spouses
of IFOR soldiers reported that the length of deployment is stressor number one. Spouses of soldiers
participating in deployments of normal length were more concerned about safety of their partner (Bartone
& Bartone, 1997).
TIME
a
CRISISPRECRISIS POSTCRISIS
b
c
RESOURCES
PERCEPTION
OF a
X
a
A
COPING
b
B
c
C
ADAPTATION
NON
ADAPTATION
MAL-
ADAPTATION
X
X
STRESSOR
Pile up
Perception of
X + aA + bB
Existing and
new resourses
Figure 1: McCubbin and Patterson’s double ABC-X model.
The ABC-X model for family stress, developed shortly after the Second World War by Hill (1949), is
attractive because of its simplicity. In the model A stands for the stressful event, B stands for the resources
people have for solving their problems (financial resources, the help of friends and family, help from the
organisation etc.). Because an event may be much more problematical for one person than it is for another,
Supporting Military Families – A Comparative
Study in Social Support Arrangements for Military Families
(Theoretical Dimensions & Empirical Comparison between Countries)
RTO-MP-HFM-134 18 - 3
the model also includes subjective perception. The subjective definition of the stressor is indicated by the
letter C. X stands for the crisis, the disorganisation and chaos that is the result of the combination of A, B
and C.
McCubbin and Patterson's double ABC-X model (1982; 46) is an improvement of Hill's original model.
This takes into account the pile-up of problems as a dynamic process. It is the last straw that breaks the
camel's back. In figure 1 the doubling of the problem is indicated by the squares with the double letters in
them. Over the course of time, one problem has been piled up on top of the other. A similar doubling may
also occur with regard to the resources that people have available to themselves and with regard to the
perception of the problem. The first problem is as it were perceived to be more stressful because of the
way in which the second problem is perceived. The fact that this doubling may result in a greater crisis
follows from the logic of the model (the last square in figure 1). In other words it is double As, Bs and Cs
that ultimately affect the capacity to cope with the problems and the level of adaptation.
This coping behaviour is defined as "the management of a stressful event or situation by the family as a
unit, with no detrimental effects on any individual in that family. Coping is the family's ability to manage,
not eradicate or eliminate, the stressful event" (Gelles, 1995; 429). The ability or inability to apply coping
mechanisms results in the ultimate adaptation to the crisis situation. Alongside all the numerous negative
coping strategies which do not solve the problem (drink, sleeping tablets, denial or flight) there are seven
positive coping strategies (McCubbin, 1979):
keeping the family ties intact;
developing self-confidence and self-esteem;
developing social support;
developing a positive attitude;
learning about a problem;
reducing tension by for example hobbies, talking, crying;
introducing balance in the coping strategies.
Military wives cope better than civilian wives. An American research by Eastman, Archer and Ball (1990)
demonstrated that navy families scored higher on cohesiveness, expressiveness and the level in which a
family is organised than civilian families on he shore. Families that can be characterised as low stress
families are as a rule also more cohesive and better at expressing feelings. There is less conflict in low
stress families and they are better organised.
Stressors and stress reactions do not remain the same in the deployment cycle (preparation, during
deployment and after deployment / marital reconciliation). What is perceived stressful before the
deployment differs much from what is perceived stressful after the deployment. The reason for these
changes is the fact that there are phases or stages in the way spouses react to deployment. The stages
wives go through are: initial shock, departure, emotional disintegration, recovery and stabilisation,
anticipation of the homecoming, reunion and reintegration / stabilisation (De Soir, 1997).
An important topic in international research is the time after the deployment (Wood, Scarville & Gravino,
1995, Wouters, 1997) Successful reintegration of the soldier and his/her family are essential in developing
a positive attitude toward future deployment. Successful marital reconciliation is important for the
motivation of many soldiers. Many studies report that wives have found new confidence in themselves and
that the relation between the spouses has become more close. In a Belgian research 60% of the couples
said that they stood the test and are “stronger and closer, because both partners have become more
autonomous and mature” (Wauters, 1997: 23).
There is much more to tell about the findings in the psychological research tradition, but most of these
findings are in some way connected to or elaboration’s of the basic model given by the ABC-X model.
Supporting Military Families – A Comparative
Study in Social Support Arrangements for Military Families
(Theoretical Dimensions & Empirical Comparison between Countries)
18 - 4 RTO-MP-HFM-134
3. BRINGING SOCIOLOGY IN! PROPOSAL FOR FURTHERING
SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY IN THE STUDY OF MILITARY FAMILIES
Much psychological research has been done on the basis of the double ABCX-model. One of the topics in
this model is social support. The effectiveness of social support is duscussed in many articles (Rosen &
Moghadam, 1990; Cohen & Wills, 1985; Bell, Segal & Rice, 1995; Moelker & Cloin, 1997). Social
support is one of the possible sources people have at their disposal. Though the concept of social support
is not strange to the sociology of the family, it is really a concept that is derived from social psychology.
Sociologists should use the findings from (social) psychology, but they should also develop their own
discipline.
The best way to develop the theory in the sociological tradition is to return to classical sociological
questions. One of the most promising questions is derived from the work of Durkheim. Durkheim’s work
departs from the question “how is society possible”? In Durkheim’s theory key concepts are ‘the division
of labour’ and ‘organic’ and ‘mechanic solidarity’. Durkheim’s primary interest in the question how a
society could be built is relevant to family research. Many scientists view the family as the corner-stone
of society. A relative of Durkheim, Marcel Mauss, posed a related question that has also become a classic.
Mauss (1990) concentrated on gifts as a way of community building. Many other authors followed this
line of reasoning. The discussion between Claude Lévi-Strauss and George Homans on the topic of the
cross cousin marriage has become famous. The discussion is centred round the question whether gifts
contribute to solidarity in society because they promote exchange relations (and mutual obligations to
return the gift). According to Berting and Phillipsen (1960) Homans was right; the kinship system was
based on exchange.
There are many ways in which the above can be elaborated. As an example for future research I will
elaborate the question how support relations emerge. Which types of support relations are most effective in
rendering support to the military families during deployment situations and what is the way in which types
of support relations come into being? This question is about the way in which networks of support
relations are constructed and therefore it is about the ways of promoting a kind of Durkheimian solidarity
that not only keeps society together, but (and to the research this is more important) that keeps the family
together. The question is very much connected to the discussion by Mauss, Levi Strauss and Homans. The
key concepts that answer the question “how do support relations come into being” are derived from the
work of these giants in sociology.
3.1 Structural developments
The structure of support networks for families depends on changes in society at large. Three kinds of
change are important. First of all the change from a closed society towards an open society. Second, a
change towards openness of the family. A third major change is a change from a collectivist to a more
individualist orientation. Of course these changes are connected.
The first major change in society refers to the openness of the society. Achievement has taken the place of
ascription as a way of advancement in social life. Not race, nobility or sexe is most important to
stratification but the achievements of the individual. This societal change is supported by the ideologies of
liberalism and individualism. The level of openness in society is much discussed in stratification research.
Even in our modern society not everybody has equal opportunities. But the degree of openness has
certainly augmented in comparison with society as it existed before world war II (for a discussion on the
openness of the industrial society see Moelker, 1992).
Family structures have developed from open to closed families, and are under the influence of
modernisation opening up again. In traditional societies family structures are open, whilst the society is a
Supporting Military Families – A Comparative
Study in Social Support Arrangements for Military Families
(Theoretical Dimensions & Empirical Comparison between Countries)
RTO-MP-HFM-134 18 - 5
closed society based on the ascribed rank in the social hierarchy. The openness is a result of the extended
form of the family. Grand parents, parents, children and often uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces are living
together in an economical unit which is open to all members of the family. As the society began to open
up and gave people chances to rise in their social status on the basis of achievement, families became
closed units, often described as the nuclear family. Father, mother and children formed this nucleus which
lived in one house. In these families traditionally the father went out working and the mother looks after
the children. Recently authors point at developments towards a greater openness in the family structure
due to the fact that both partners participate in working life, and have friends of their own. Some
sociologists even predict that circles of friends will become more important than family ties (Weeda,
1991). This prediction is rejected by others (Straver, et al, 1994; v/d Akker et al., 1992) because of the
fact that the nuclear family still is the most dominant form of family life.
The above mentioned changes could not be without the process of individualisation. The shift from
collectivism towards individualism has been described by many authors (from Tonnies to Habermas,
Giddens and Beck). Individualisation stimulates women to participate in working life. Legal and
financial regulations in the Netherlands have in the 20
th
century been beneficial to traditional families
1
.
Individualisation in legislation results in equal rights but also obliges women to make their own living
2
.
The nuclear family may be the dominant form of family life in the Netherlands, but families are not
traditional any more in the sense of the father in his role of provider and income-earner and the mother in
her role of caring and nurturing.
3.2 A typology in social support relations
We can distinguish four support relations on the basis of the dependency-axis and the individualized-
communitarian continuum. Dependency and independence form the extremes on the dependency-axis.
This axis refers to the relationship with the providers of support. The second axis refers to two traditions
in social exchange theory (Ekeh, 1974), one is individualist, and the other is communitarian. The first is
rooted in the work of George Homans who departed from an almost economic individualist conceptual
framework. Each gift or service has to be reciprocated by the recipient by a service in return, a gift or
money. The communitarian tradition builds on the concepts of Durkheim, Mauss and Lévi-Strauss. This
tradition states for instance that even in economics there are communitarian issues - like trust - that are
essential to exchange transactions. Exchange cannot solely be analyzed by using the calculative logic of
contributions versus retributions.
The two structure-variables ‘dependency’ and ‘individualism-communitarian’ together form a taxonomy
that defines four types of social support networks; professionalized social support relations,
institutionalized social support networks, exchange relations and social support networks on the basis of
generalized reciprocity (see figure 2).
1
Families with two incomes were disproportionately taxed, till the sixties married women were not allowed to work, etc.
2
The Netherlands still have the lowest labour market participation (about 50%) in Europe. This low degree of participation is in
great part explainable by differences in tax systems in the past, cultural norms (only in poor proletarised families the women
worked), and legislation.
Supporting Military Families – A Comparative
Study in Social Support Arrangements for Military Families
(Theoretical Dimensions & Empirical Comparison between Countries)
18 - 6 RTO-MP-HFM-134
Dependent Independent
Communitarian
Individualized
Professionalized
Exchange
relations
Generalized
reciprocity
Relationship with provider
of support
Institutionalized
Figure 2: Structure variables determining social support network types.
3.2.1 Professionalized social support relations
The advantage of professional support lies in the economy of scale. A small group of professionals can
give help to a big number of clients. The second advantage is that the professionals are specialised in
special services like psychiatry or social work. Specialisation makes it possible to give aid and adequately
render services that fit the needs of the people. An other important characteristic of professionalism is the
trusting relationship between helper and client. From Kramer and Tyler (1996) we know that trust is
important because the client has to be sure that information about health and/or personal circumstances are
safe with the helper.
A disadvantage is that clients can become dependent on professionals like psychologists, social workers or
members of the medical profession. Services by professional helpers are reciprocated by money,
insurances or paid for by the military organization. This dependency arises because spouses are isolated
and do not connect to other army wives, nor to family or friends. When confronted with problems the
spouse cannot cope with, there is no other resort than professional workers. Hence the size of the support
network is small, there are not many people the spouse can turn to for help. The marital quality and the
authority relation between family members may vary within each family but when there is need for
professional support it is likely that there are problems regarding the family relations. Commitment is
limited to the family only. One of the problems that might be heavier on these type of families is the
conflict of the military organization with the military family. Whilst the family is inner directed and highly
‘greedy’ the justified demands of the military organization regarding the duties of the serviceman may not
be accepted by the spouse. Especially deployments will lead to a sharp conflict between family and
military organization. Support from professionals is effective but costly. When emergency situations arise,
professional support will probably encounter capacity problems.
3.2.2 Institutionalized social support networks
The fundamentals of institutionalized social support networks were discussed in the section on greedy
institutions (Segal, 1986). The networks are embedded in traditional military norms and values such as the
value that is placed on community. This type of network is likely to occur in the ‘institution’-model
(Moskos, 1977) where communitarianism is strong and the individual is dependent on the military
community for social support. Support is based on a contribution-retribution basis towards the whole
community. There is no strict accounting of given or gotten support. Often the military community is – to
a certain degree - isolated from civilian society (its a closed inner directed community). This community is
characterized by strong social control, a high commitment to community from its members and hierarchic
relationships. Social control takes care of people who tend to behave as free riders. The military
community serves as a surrogate family of the extended form. The family itself is also traditional and is
Supporting Military Families – A Comparative
Study in Social Support Arrangements for Military Families
(Theoretical Dimensions & Empirical Comparison between Countries)
RTO-MP-HFM-134 18 - 7
characterized by patriarchal authority relations. Wives usually don’t have jobs, but devote their time
keeping house and raising the children. The status of the spouse is derived from the rank of their husband.
The network size can be very large which contributes to effectiveness and efficiency of the support
rendered, but this support is only effective and efficient when the spouse accepts the traditional
‘institution’-character. Support given demands great effort from the individual who sacrifices him/her self
for the benefit of the community. The support, that is organised in this military community is effective as
long as the traditional military community remains intact. When the ‘institution’-character is not accepted,
there will be a sharp conflict between family and military organization. In contrast to the type described
above the military organization is highly greedy.
3.2.3 Direct exchange relations
In direct exchange relationships individual spouses bargain for their own position in a way that is ruled by
the immediate quid pro quo principle. Self interest leads to calculative behaviour in which the costs of
helping is being weighed against the profits of services that will be given return. The immediacy is the cause
for a low need for trust. You know that you are not cheated because the service in return is immediate
(Mauss, 1990). Calculations are made whether or not investments in relationships are profitable
considering the costs. The support network – if it deserves that name – is very small and is structured in
dyads. There can be several dyads, relations of support between provider and recipient, but the number of
dyads will be limited due to the investments and costs needed to maintain the dyads. Maintaining an
extended network would rapidly become very expensive. Especially when the investments are not in
balance with the profits (the services in return; we are talking of all kinds of support, from material to
emotional support). The principle of reciprocity (quit pro quo) is at work here. The actual value of the
services/support in the exchange relation depend on the balance of power, the scarcity of the service and
the subjective need for a special kind of service (some women value emotional support more than help in
the garden, but the reverse is also possible). Status and authority relations with others depend on what the
others can offer and the ‘market value’ of the spouse. In situations where A has a great need for a certain
kind of support that is scarce and/or is valued very high by A and the service can only be provided for by
B, B will have much power and can ask for a service in return from A that has a value that surmounts the
value of the service given by B. Commitment is primarily to one self. The attitude towards the military
organization is not conflictuous provided that there is a balance between ‘give and take’. The dyads are
not very effective and efficient support systems. When someone experiences a problematic situation over a
considerable period of time, her ‘market value’ will diminish and she will lose attractiveness as exchange
partner. In fact the dyad structure will dissolve and slide down into a professionalized support relationship,
meaning that there will soon not be another alternative for support than to knock on the doors of
professional workers.
3.2.4 Generalized reciprocity
Social support networks based on generalized reciprocity (Sahlins, 1978) combine a communitarian
character with a great independence of participating individuals. In fact the strength of the support
network is derived from what Granovetter (1973) called the strength of weak ties: there is a rather large
community of friendship circles with members who support each other, but the ties between the members
are not so strong that they would cause the support network to become greedy or threaten the
independence of the individuals in the network. There are many weak ties between people to make the
network strong. The exchange principle is not based on direct reciprocation, sometimes helpers may never
be reciprocated. ‘This is not to say that handing over things in such form, even to ‘loved ones’ generates
no counter-obligation. But the counter is not stipulated by time, quantity, or quality: the expectation of
reciprocity is indefinite’ (Sahlins, 1978). This results into a behavior that can be described as citizenship
behavior. People making contributions to society are not altruistic but they act from the well understood
self interest that one day they might receive support from someone with whom they perhaps were not
personally acquainted.
Supporting Military Families – A Comparative
Study in Social Support Arrangements for Military Families
(Theoretical Dimensions & Empirical Comparison between Countries)
18 - 8 RTO-MP-HFM-134
That economic rational exchange knows its limits, was proven by Titmuss. He studied the motives of
people to become a blood donor “The choice of blood as an illustration and case study was no idly
academic thought; it was deliberate (...) Blood as a living tissue may now constitute in Western societies
one of the ultimate tests of where the ‘social’ begins and the ’economic’ ends (Titmuss, 1970: 158). The
gift of blood without pursuit of gain is not so much based on exchange but on an abstract form of trust: the
trust that, when helping other people, one shall get help to. Maybe one gets help from a third person one
did not previously know. With blood transfusions this is very common, one seldom knows who is the
blood donor. This sacrifice of blood stands against the direct exchange and is an example of ‘generalised
reciprocity’. But generalised reciprocity is only possible when there is enough trust in the will of others to
help. The exchange principle is of the kind “helper-help” which has shown it’s effectiveness in many self
help groups as Alcoholics Anonymous (Harberden, P. Van, 19..). As in self help groups the helper helps
him/her self by helping others. Helping others even solves his/her own problems. Women who share the
same fate, feel better and are better able to cope with their problems when they help a friend (emotionally
or with practical problems like watching over children. This system of generalised reciprocity is based on
well understood self interest. The people that participate in the system understand that giving support is
profitable in ‘the long run” because at some point of time others (maybe even persons one is not
acquainted with) will give support to them.
In these network not every person needs to be acquainted with each other. One can imagine that A
supports B, who will at her/his turn support C, who perhaps in time will help D and maybe D will help A.
A does not need to be acquainted with C. In this way the size of the network may become much larger
than other types of networks because there are many people who can in some way be part of this circle of
friends. In this way the circle of friends has the advantage of scale which gives the support system
supplementary facilities.
Relationships within the network but also within the family are egalitarian. The relations between network
members are affective, friendly. Power distances between network members are small. Spouses derive
their status from their own occupation or their personality. The power distance between the spouses are
likewise small. The spouses function independently because both of the spouses have jobs and both
participate equally in the household. The spouses have friends of their own. When the military
organization and the family both believe the relation to be a two-sided affair the chance that the family-
military relation is conflictuous is low. Support is offered on basis of friendship without the expectation of
immediate reciprocation, which causes the support network to be stable. Prolonged support is enabled
because support is offered without the expectation of immediate reciprocation. The friendship circles
giving support in fact very much resemble the volunteer groups or ‘home front groups’ in the armed
forces. In short, social support networks based on generalized reciprocity are effective and efficient.
Supporting Military Families – A Comparative
Study in Social Support Arrangements for Military Families
(Theoretical Dimensions & Empirical Comparison between Countries)
RTO-MP-HFM-134 18 - 9
Table 1: Ideal typical approach of social support networks
Variables / social
support network
Professionalized Institutionalized Exchange relations Generalized
reciprocity
Dependent -
Independent
Dependent of
professional care
Dependent of
military community
Independent :
bargaining for own
position
Independent:
strength of weak ties
Individualized –
communitarian
Individualized :
individual versus
bureaucracy
Communitarian:
service to
community
Individualized: quid
pro quo
Communitarian:
citizenship behavior
Network structure Individualized /
isolated
Military community
serves as extended
family
Dyad structure Friendship circles
Network size Small – isolated
Large Small Medium to large
Status spouse Does not apply : the
family is separated
from military
community
Depending on rank
of the serviceman
Depending on the
possibilities to
reciprocate
Depending on own
occupation,
personality
Authority relation
within the family
Varies for all
families
Patriarchal /
traditional
Depending on what
the other can offer
Egalitarian
Commitment To family only To military
community
To one self To friends and loved
ones
Greediness : conflict
family – military
organization
Family is most
greedy : sharp
conflict when the
organization
demands
deployment
Military
organization is most
greedy : sharp
conflict when
spouses do not
accept traditionalism
Low conflict if
balanced: Give and
take kind of balance
Low conflict if
balanced: balanced if
there is mutual
acceptance: ‘a two
sided affair’
Effectivity and
efficiency of the
support network
Professional help is
effective if spouse
cannot cope, not
efficient because of
costs and capacity
problems
Effective and
efficient if
‘institution’-
character is accepted
Not effective and
efficient: when
families are in
trouble they are not
attractive exchange
partners
Effective and
efficient: on basis of
friendship support is
offered without
expectation of
immediate
reciprocation
Supporting Military Families – A Comparative
Study in Social Support Arrangements for Military Families
(Theoretical Dimensions & Empirical Comparison between Countries)
18 - 10 RTO-MP-HFM-134
3.3 Empirical study of support systems
The 2001-survey makes specific the kind of support spouses want from the military organization. They
have a need to be informed and communicate with their loved ones (see also Ender, 1995). But spouses
are not much in need for financial or material support. Only 26% answered ‘I need mainly material
support’ (the answering categories ‘a little bit’ and ‘a lot’ were taken together). Only 26% needed
professional support. 64% stated that they needed mainly emotional support by family or friends, or both.
The survey also showed a remarkable preference for the more communitarian forms of support. The item
‘in our community we should help each other without wanting a favor in return’ was agreed to by 68%.
Only 15% agreed to the question ‘If I help someone, I expect him/her to help me too’. ‘Help comes from
unexpected persons’ was agreed to by 75%. Only 24% agreed to the statement ‘Rendering support cannot
be left to amateurs’. Most popular was ‘People have to care about each other’. The item was supported by
86%. These items proved all in favor of communitarian forms of support networks. Both the
‘institutionalized’ and ‘generalized reciprocity’ forms of networks were popular. Individualistic
approaches – exchange and professional support – proved least popular.
When looking at actual emotional support it became clear that the social support networks in the civilian
surroundings of the spouses are the best used support networks. The most popular conversational partners
to whom one could open one’s heart were parents (73% could have this kind of conversations with the
parents) and parents in law (57%), friends (85%), colleagues (50%) and neighbors (42%). These kind of
comforting conversations with colleagues of the deployed partner and with other military wives were
much less likely (27 and 34%). These findings lead us to believe that social support networks based on
generalized reciprocity are more important in the Netherlands than institutionalized social support
networks.
CONCLUSIONS
From the theoretical discussion the main conclusion is that there is are correlations between the form of
the support relation in terms of exchange, dependency, the support network structure, quality, power
distances and authority, commitment, status, conflict between the military organisation and the military
family and effectivity and efficiency of the support relation. It is difficult to hypothesise a causal relation
between the position of the support relation in the depencency – individualism/communitarisme typology
and the other elements that characterise the support relation. But the ideal typical approach used above
makes it plausible that the four support relations that vary in the mixture of “dependency” and
“communitarism” result in four different kind societal helping patterns. These societal patterns are
meaningful life worlds to the people in it. These life worlds are their self constructed ‘helping societies’.
Differences in support relations and differences in ‘exchange-sacrifice’ result in different life worlds. But
the question also was, which types of support relations are more effective and efficient. The answer to this
question is more difficult than the analytical text above suggests. Every support relation can under certain
conditions be efficient and effective. Traditional military families develop efficient and effective networks
when their culture and surroundings are traditional. Dyads are efficient and effective when they succeed in
maintaining enough relations that can participate in exchange. The isolated military family basing its
behaviour on exchange and the friendship circles based on generalised reciprocity can also be efficient and
effective. In a modern society support relations based on generalised reciprocity seem to be more likely to
be effective and efficient.
For army policy makers the problem is how they should match the support to the support relation. The
army does not need to offer support when for instance dyads are functioning well. The ‘market’ of demand
and supply of services will take care of all needs. When isolated families function well, they will solve
their own problems. For traditional families, community support lends a helping hand. In friendship
Supporting Military Families – A Comparative
Study in Social Support Arrangements for Military Families
(Theoretical Dimensions & Empirical Comparison between Countries)
RTO-MP-HFM-134 18 - 11
circles friends take care of each other on the basis op generalised reciprocity. Matching the support to the
support relation means for the isolated families that the armed forces have to provide a safety net of
professional helpers. In the case of the traditional family the armed forces have to stimulate ‘traditional’
communal happenings which reinforce community feeling and organisation commitment, like parties,
ceremonies, activities that integrate spouses and children in the military community. Dyads can only be
supported by providing sufficient freedom so that they can establish a market of demand and supply of
mutual services. Friendship circles have much use for facilitating policy of the armed forces. Friendship
circles have a capacity of self organisation but they often need a little help to get started and facilities (like
accomodation where women can meet each other, facilities for publishing a newsletter of establishing a
telephone tree) that enables the autonomous work of the friendship circle possible.
All types of support relations are possible at the same time. For some individuals the traditional military
family is a life world that is a reality. For others the friendship circle constitutes a reality. This means that
the armed forces have to be facilitating towards all types of support relations. It will be difficult for the
armed forces to supply the diversified array of supportive activities towards the support relations. The
secret of matching support to the support relations is that support delivered by the armed forces has to be
appropriate. One cannot force a group of individuals that function as a friendship circle to consume the
kind of support that is appropriate for the isolated military family. Professional support would in this
example be contra productive and arouse feelings of aversion. To be able to match the right kind of
support to the right support relation the armed forces need to able to provide all the above mentions kinds
of support.
The elaboration of theory in this paper towards a matrix in which support relations are idealtypically
described, offers possibilities for further research. It is possible to work out new hypotheses that have a
theoretical fundament. The theory presented in this paper only has the function to inspire and stimulate
the formulation of new hypotheses. There are ample possibilities to work on these hypotheses in
interdisciplinary and international research.
REFERENCES
Akker, P. van den, P. Cuyvers & C. de Hoog. Tijdschrift voor Primaire Leefvormen.
Bartone, J.V. & P.T. Bartone (1997) American Army Families in Europe: Coping with Deployment
Separation. Paper delivered at the International Workshop on “The Importance of Research on the
Homefront and the Need for Family Support” Brussels: Royal Military Academy.
Bell, D.B. & M.W. Segal & R.E. Rice (1995). Family Issues in the Assignment of Reservists to
Peacekeeping Duty. Paper presented at: The Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and
Society.
Berting, J. en H. Philipsen (1960) Solidarity, Stratification and Sentiments: the Unilateral Cross-Cousin
Marriage according to the Theories of Lévi-Strauss. Leach, Homans and Schneider, bijdragen tot de
taal-, land- en volkenkunde deel 116, nr. 1, p 55-80.
Cohen, S., & Wills, T.A. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin,
98, 310-357.
Coser, L. (1974) Greedy Institutions, New York, The Free Press.
Durkheim, E. (1984, original 19??) The Division of Labour in Society, Houndsmill etc.: Macmillan.
Engh, J.A. van den, (1983) Het Nederlandse militaire gezin in West-Duitsland, Utrecht: proefschrift.
Supporting Military Families – A Comparative
Study in Social Support Arrangements for Military Families
(Theoretical Dimensions & Empirical Comparison between Countries)
18 - 12 RTO-MP-HFM-134
Eastman, E., Archer, R.P. & Ball, J.D. (1990). Psychosocial And Life Stress Characteristics of Navy
Families: Family Environment Scale and Life Experiences Scale Findings. Military Psychology, 2 (2),
113-127
Ekeh, Peter. (1974) Social Exchange Theory. The Two Traditions, (London: Heinemann).
Gelles, R.J. (1995), Contemporary Families. A Sociological View. London/New Delhi: Harper & Row.
Granovetter, Mark. (1973) ‘The strength of weak ties’. American Journal of Sociology (78): 1360-1380.
Harberden, P. van (19..)
Hill, R. (1949) Families Under Stress, New York: Harper & Row.
Holmes, T.H. R.H. Rahe, (1967) “The Social Readjustment Scale”. In Jounal of Psychosomatic Research 11
(September), 213-218.
Kramer, R.M. & T.R. Tyler (1996) Trust in organizations. Frontiers of Theory and Research, Thousand
Oaks/London/New Delhi, Sage Publications.
Lakhani. H. (1994). The Socio-economic Benefits to Military Families of Home-Basing of Armed Forces.
Armed Forces & Society, 21 (1), 113-128.
Mauss, M. (1990) [org. 1923] Essai sur le Don. Eng. Trans.: The Gift. The Form and Reason for Exchange
in Archaic Societies. London: Routledge.
McCubbin, (1979) H.I, ‘Integrating Coping Behavior in Family Stress Theory’. In: Journal of Marriage and
the Family. 41 (May), 237-244.
McCubbin, H.I. & J. Patterson, (1982) ‘Family Adaptation to Crisis’. In: H.I. McCubbin, A.E. Cauble,
J.Patterson (eds.) Family Stress, Coping and Social Support, Springfield: Charles C. Thomas.
Moskos, Charles.C. (1977), ‘From Institutions to Occupation,Armed Forces & Society (Fall): pp 41-50.
Moelker, R. (1992) Zou hij onze werknemer kunnen zijn? De Lier: Academisch Boeken Centrum.
Moelker, R. & C. Cloïn, (1996) Gezinnen bij uitzending. In-, Door- en Uitstroom van Personeel, no. 6, p.
43-60.
Moelker, R. & C. Cloïn (1997) Tussen ruil en offer. Steunrelaties t.b.v. het thuisfront. Kernvraag, nr. 112, p.
42-53.
Rosen, L.N. & L.Z. Moghadam (1990) Matching the support to the stressor: Implications for the buffering
hypothesis. Military Psychology, 2(4), 193-204
Sahlins, M.D. (1978) Stone Age Economics. London: Routledge, 185-205.
Segal, M.W., (1986) The Military and the Family as greedy Institutions. Armed Forces and Society, vol. 13
No.1, Fall P. 9-38
Soeters, J. (1994) Roddel in organisaties. Sociologische Gids, no. 5, 329-345.
Supporting Military Families – A Comparative
Study in Social Support Arrangements for Military Families
(Theoretical Dimensions & Empirical Comparison between Countries)
RTO-MP-HFM-134 18 - 13
Soir, E. de (1997) Peace-support operations and family problems: Support activities to prevent culture
shock and psychosocial family trauma. Paper delivered at Nato/partnership for peace workshop
“Psychological Readiness for Multinational Operations: Directions for the 21
st
Century, 7-9 July
Heidelberg.
Straver, C, A. van der Heiden & R. van der Vliet. (1994) De huwelijkse logica. Leiden: DSWO Press.
Titmuss, R. (1970) The gift relationship. From Human Blood to social Policy. London: Allen & Unwin.
Weeda. I. (1989). Samen Leven. Een gezinssociologische inleiding. Leiden/Antwerpen: Stenfert Kroese
Uitgevers.
Wauters, N. (1997) The Psychosocial Support of the Soldiers and their Families during Long-term
Operation Abroad. Paper delivered at the International workshop on "The Importance of Research
on the Homefront and the Need for Family Support". Brussels: Royal Military Academy.
Wood, S., J. Scarville, & K.S. Gravino (1995) Waiting Wives: Separation and Reunion among army
wives. Armed Forces & Society, 21 (2), p. 217-236.
Supporting Military Families – A Comparative
Study in Social Support Arrangements for Military Families
(Theoretical Dimensions & Empirical Comparison between Countries)
18 - 14 RTO-MP-HFM-134
... Army wives are conjoined by unwritten codes. They are expected to endure hardships with kindness and tragedies with heads held high (Moelker, Andres, and Poot 2006). The media commonly relies only on the families' sorrowful goodbyes and touching reunions. ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper deploys an ethnographic research of gender-based role expectation of Indonesia army wives. Its aim is to question wives’ positionality vis-à-vis the military institution and consider the implication for how to understand the unwritten conventions and codes to be army wives itself. This paper asserts that the expectation for wives are culturally gendered role that are different for seniors’ and junior’s army wives. To address these points, we discuss the meaning of gendered roles, then progress through a brief history of military marriage procedures, then discuss current expectations for and perception of army wives. We then evaluate the extent to which gendered role expectations continue to reflect rivalry among army wives before concluding with assertion about what today’s stereotypes and role expectation say about social progress in Indonesia army.
... Introduction. In those NATO countries the troops of which take part in foreign military operations the significant attention is paid to the psychological support of both military personnel and their families at all stages of the combat task (before deployment, during deployment, and after deployment) (Moelker et al., 2006). For example, Canadian troops have been supporting families for over 60 years. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
... When these partners receives enough care, love, respect, support and value from families, friends, neighbors and loved ones present in their lives during the period of incarceration of their husbands, it helps in moderating the effect that the imprisonment has on their well-being. In the same view, Moelker, Andres and Poot (2006) found that seeking social support is one of the ways people cope with stressful situations that could affect their well-being and it has also been found that social support plays an important role in managing psychological and physical problems (Uchino, 2006). Lastly emotional needs independently predicted psychological well being. ...
Article
Full-text available
This study examined the psychological factors predicting psychological well-being among female partners of prisoners in Ibadan, Nigeria. Using the purposive sampling techniques, a total of 109 female partners of inmates in Ibadan participated in the study. The ages of the participants ranged between 20 years to 65years with mean age of 39.47years and standard deviation of 10.03 years. Data collection was through the use of questionnaires. Multiple regressions were used to test the hypothesis. Findings indicate that coping strategies (problem focused and emotion focused), social support, perceived social stigma and emotional needs significantly predicted psychological well-being with (R2 = .43, F = (5,103) = 17.75; p <.001). This implies that emphasis should be placed on coping strategies, social support, perceived social stigma and emotional needs as the factors predicting psychological well-being among female partners of inmates in this study. However, government parastatals, non-governmental organization, religious organization and communities should all take part in giving the partners of inmates, especially those within the low socio-economic class the whole support and encouragement needed and this will go a long way in affecting their psychological well-being positively.
Article
Full-text available
The importance of getting the job done is taking over our personal lives and causing a potential work–family conflict. There are some institutions that have traditionally placed high demands on their members and have been termed ‘greedy institutions’. This article analyses the relationship between two greedy institutions – the family and the military – considering the demands they both place on their members. The article strives to establish which one of them is greedier and consequently responsible for a potential work–family conflict. The in-depth analysis is based on the findings of 10 years’ research among service members of the Slovenian Armed Forces and a sample of their families. The results indicate that: (1) both the family and the military might be greedy institutions, although especially during deployment the greediness of the military outweighs that of the family; (2) the contemporary military organization does not only require service members’ loyalty, but the whole family’s support; (3) Slovenian military families remain highly supportive, regardless of military demands; (4) there are no significant differences in balancing work/family between genders (p = .119), with women reporting less work–family conflict than men (p = .041) and women feeling more support for their deployment from their family and friends than men.
Article
The goal of this study was to examine the relationships between heightened anxiety, social support, and physical health in a sample of spouses of returning Iraq and Afghanistan service members. 86 spouses were recruited nationally as part of a pilot trial of a military spouse telephone support group. Participants completed measures of physical and mental health via telephone including a screening tool for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Scores for social support and health outcomes were compared across two groups (positive vs. negative screens for GAD) using one-way analysis of variance analysis procedures. Path analytic techniques were used to evaluate the relative effects of anxiety and perceived social support on overall health and physical health comorbidities. A total of 38 participants screened positive for GAD. Participants with probable GAD reported having less social support than those screening negative for GAD. GAD participants also reported poorer overall health and more physical health comorbidities than their GAD-negative counterparts. Path analysis indicated that heightened anxiety is associated with worse overall health and social support does not buffer this interaction. The results suggest that anxiety-related health is a critical factor to be addressed in spouses of service members.
Book
Full-text available
Examines the two traditions of Social Exchange Theory against the background of French and British orientations in Sociology and in the context of the works of Claude Levi-Strauss, George Homans, Peter Blau and others.
Article
Some of the discrepancies between observations made of family behavior under stress and the family stress theory literature to date result from the tendency to emphasize adaptation to stress as an intrafamily process. Analysis of three studies of coping and adaptation in the face of family separations reveals that the family is called upon to both react and actively employ coping behaviors within the family system and in relationship to the community. The analysis reveals specific coping behaviors which vary according to the severity of the stress on the family unit and underscores the value of viewing coping behavior as an integral part of Hill's B Factor—Family Resources—in family stress theory. Five propositions are offered and discussed in the advancement of research and theory construction.
Article
Understanding Families Family Studies Theoretical and Methodological Approaches Families across Time and Cultures Changing Family Organization in the United States Variations in Family Organization in the United States Love, Courtship and Mate Selection The Marital Dyad Marital Quality Adjustment and Satisfaction Parents and Parenthood Child Socialization Work and Family Marriage, Family and the Later Years Divorce and Remarriage Stress and Coping in Families Family Violence and Abuse Families in the Future
Article
This ethnographic study explores army wives' adjustment to separation and reunion. The women were married to soldiers who were deployed for six months to the Sinai as part of the Multinational Force & Observers. Thirty-five women completed lengthy interviews before and during the separation, just before reunion, and six to eight weeks after the reunion. The women's behaviors, attitudes and perceptions at each of the four stages were noted, and researchers evaluated subjectively the degree to which subjects had adjusted to the separation and reunion. Junior enlisted families had more difficulty than others in coping with extended deployment. While reunion could be stressful as families integrated returning soldiers into family systems, experiences were not always negative. Being employed, having a social support network of friends and family, and participating in family support group activities were important to women who successfully adjusted.
Article
The home-basing or relocation of military units from Outside Continental United States (OCONUS) to Continental United States (CONUS) and the proposed increase in time from three to six years at CONUS locations is hypothesized to generate considerable socioeconomic benefits. Analysis of the Survey of Army Families, 1987, and Army Family Survey Research data reveal that home-basing is likely to improve quality of spouse employment and the quality of family life of soldiers. An increase in time at a location by three years is likely to increase spouse earnings by 14 percent. An increase in spouse employment due to home-basing is also associated with an increase in spouse's satisfaction with Army life which, in turn, tends to increase spouse's desire for soldier-husband's retention in the Army. The home-basing is also likely to reduce child care costs to the Army and to the soldiers because of lower child care costs in CONUS relative to OCONUS. Three limitations of home-basing and Army policy measures for mitigating them are also discussed.
Article
This paper analyzes military families as the intersection of two societal institutions, both of which make great demands on individuals in terms of commitment, loyalty, time, and energy. It shows the increasing conflict between these two "greedy institutions' due to various trends in American society and military family patterns. The demands that American armed forces make on members and their families are described, including the risk of injury or death, geographic mobility, family separations, residence in foreign countries, and normative constraints on the behavior of spouses and children. Also discussed are trends that are increasing the potential military/family conflict, including general changes in women's roles in society (especially labor force participation) and specific changes in military family patterns, such as increases in the number of married junior enlisted personnel, sole parents, active duty mothers, and dual-service couples. Actual and potential military adaptations to these changes are considered, with particular attention to their implications for institutional and occupational trends in the military.