ArticlePDF Available

Impact of military deployment on family relationships

Authors:
  • Central Texas College

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate how an active duty member’s increased time away from home (deployments, temporary duty assignments, and trainings) affects family stress as reported by the dependent spouse. Specifically, this research focused on the impact of increased time away from home on the parent—child relationship within the military family. This research analyzed Parenting Relationship Questionnaire (PRQ) and Parenting Stress Index (PSI) scores as reported by the military dependent spouse. Results revealed that extended time away from home can cause the dependent spouse to detach from the parent—child relationship. Mental health professionals and educators working within a community that supports the armed forces must be sensitive to the unique needs of military families during these times of transition.
Impact of Military Deployment on Family Relationships
Kendra N. Lowe, Katharine S. Adams, Blaine L. Browne, and Kerry T. Hinkle
Valdosta State University
Author Note
Kendra N. Lowe is a graduate student in the Department of Psychology and Counseling
at Valdosta State University. Katharine S. Adams, Blaine L. Browne, and Kerry T. Hinkle are
faculty members in the Department of Psychology and Counseling at Valdosta State University.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Katharine S. Adams,
Valdosta
... A notable exception is research on parentadolescent relationship quality in the context of deployment (just one of the military stressors examined in the current study). Research indicates that deployment and reintegration are often difficult times for parent-adolescent relationships due to role-shifting, absence of a parent, and increased stressors (Huebner & Mancini, 2005;Lowe et al., 2012). For example, some adolescents report taking on additional child care responsibilities for younger siblings and more household chores, resulting in shifts to the parent-adolescent relationship with some adolescents feeling more like a co-parent to the civilian parent (Huebner & Mancini, 2005). ...
... For example, some adolescents report taking on additional child care responsibilities for younger siblings and more household chores, resulting in shifts to the parent-adolescent relationship with some adolescents feeling more like a co-parent to the civilian parent (Huebner & Mancini, 2005). Additionally, longer deployments have been associated with lower quality parent-child attachments (as an indicator of parent-child relationship quality) with the civilian parent, indicating that examining relationship quality with both parents is important (Lowe et al., 2012). ...
Article
Full-text available
Elements of military life can create challenges for all family members, including military-connected adolescents, and can have detrimental consequences for their adjustment. Although research with samples of military-connected adolescents has examined the influences of military stressors for adolescent adjustment (e.g., depressive symptoms, anxiety), less research has identified possible mechanisms responsible for these effects, particularly the role of specific familial factors. Drawing from social ecological theory and attachment theory, we examined the associations between military stressors (e.g., parental rank, combat deployments, permanent change of station moves) and self-reported adolescent adjustment (e.g., depressive symptoms, self-efficacy) along with examining adolescents’ perceptions of parent-adolescent relationship quality with both the active duty and civilian parent as a linking mechanism. Using a path analysis, data from 265 Army families were examined to identify the direct and indirect associations between military stressors and adolescent adjustment through parent-adolescent relationship quality. Most military stressors were not significantly related to relationship quality of either parent or indicators of adolescent adjustment. However, parent-adolescent relationship quality with each parent (active duty and civilian parent) was uniquely related to adolescents’ adjustment. Discussion is provided regarding how military stressors and familial factors are conceptualized within the context of military families and implications for future research, family therapy, and policies are suggested.
... (Chandra et al., 2010;Lowe et al., 2012). The various challenges and transitions that military families face requires resilience, sacrifice, and acceptance above and beyond what is typical for a family (Huebner et al., 2007;Lowe et al., 2012;Palmer, 2008). ...
... . The various challenges and transitions that military families face requires resilience, sacrifice, and acceptance above and beyond what is typical for a family (Huebner et al., 2007;Lowe et al., 2012;Palmer, 2008). The unique duties of the job require a strict adherence to the commands of the military. ...
... Chandra, Martin, Hawkins, and Richardson (2010) stressed the need for increased assistance for families affected by multiple redeployments or longer deployments. In contrast, Lowe, Adams, Browne, and Hinkle (2012) and McGuire et al. (2012) found little difference between the impact of single and multiple deployments on families; however, McGuire et al. (2012) conceded that parents tend to be increasingly negative about the effects of deployment on their children with multiple deployments. DeVoe and Ross (2012) described this as a common reaction of nondeployed parents who are dealing with the loss of their partner and the overwhelming "financial, household, and parenting responsibilities" (p. ...
... They need to invest time to listen to the children and acknowledge their emotions, responding professionally and creating joint understandings (Nolan, Stagnitti, Taket, & Casey, 2014). Lowe et al. (2012) stressed the importance of addressing issues during this period to promote the long-term stability of the whole family unit. Sharing insightful dialogues with an early childhood professional to assist with family communication during this stressful reintegration period was very comforting for Fiona from Family 1. ...
Article
Full-text available
Families sometimes face prolonged and frequent absences of a parent due to employment in industries that require work away or for military deployment. Many families, however, are finding ways to survive and thrive. Within Australian Defence Force (ADF) families, despite the high stress and inherent danger, most do cope, displaying strength and resilience. Limited research has been conducted with Australian military families with young children, even less focusing on protective factors. There is particularly a dearth of research about families who have left the ADF or who have experienced the death of an ADF parent. This study offers unique insights through exploring family experiences of parental deployment by applying a socioconstructivist approach from data derived through narrative research. Protective factors were identified through relationships, the ADF, social media, community organizations, government departments, and digital communication technologies. Understanding how these families manage and the protective factors they utilize may enable early childhood educators and family support services to better understand family resilience, and thus provide appropriate services for military families with young children.
... Nykänen, 2020;Nykänen, 2019;Russell, 2019;McAdam, 2018;Pierce, 2017;Groeller, 2015;Sammito, 2014;Santtila, 2009;Sharp, 2008 Mental Fitness emotional and spiritual beliefs Religious, emotional, and spiritual beliefs are salient factors of strategic training to protect the soldiers from trauma, stress, fear, and suicidal thinking. Valor-Segura, 2020; Sullivan, 2020;Park, 2017;Bowles, 2015;Bates, 2013;Padden, 2013;Dunning, 2013;Harms, 2013;Lowe, 2012 Resilience self-identity Social identity in the military is a combination of personal identity (intrinsic characteristics such as personality traits) and social identity (the sense of identifying with whichever group the individual belongs). Darojat, 2020;op den Buijs, 2019;Werner, 2019;Johansen, Rohall, 2014;Griffith, 2013;Meredith, 2011;Coulston 2004;Coulston 2004;Elder Jr, 1989;Tajfel & Turner, 1986;St Denis 1986;Henri, 1986; mental agility Mental agility is the ability of soldiers to anticipate or adapt in the complex and changing situations and think critically to solve uncertain problems. ...
Article
Full-text available
21st-century military operational environment is characterised by changeability, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Hence, the military primarily aims to groom and develop essential competencies of the soldiers for success and survival. The purpose of this systematic review is to synthesise 21st-century military war-front competencies to connect to the philosophy of Be, Know, and Do to analyse what a soldier must Be, what a soldier must Know, and what a soldier must Do to successfully fulfil the responsibilities and assigned roles. This philosophy relates 21st-century military competencies to the best set of meta-competencies according to the functionality in the operational environment. The study identified 300 pieces of research and 15 military field manuals published in various journals and databases. For each research, purpose, corresponding competencies, and criteria were used to analyse competencies. This research aims at preparing a conceptual framework of 21st-century military war-front competencies.
... Parental deployment is also considered difficult for young children who show myriad of physical, emotional, social and cognitive responses. These include: behavioural issues (Barker & Berry, 2009;Chartrand, Frank, White, & Shope, 2008;Medway et al., 1995), developmental regression (Paris, DeVoe, Ross, & Acker, 2010), attachment difficulties (Barker & Berry, 2009;Lowe et al., 2012), increased internalised behaviours (Chartrand et al., 2008;De Pedro & Astor, 2011), depression and anxiety (Chandra, Martin, Hawkins, & Richardson, 2010;Chartrand et al., 2008;Waliski, Bokony, Edlund, & Kirchner, 2012). A major issue for young children and their parents is the impact deployment has on their development overall. ...
Article
Full-text available
Military deployment is typically considered a stressful period for families, generally lasting between 3 to 6 months for Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel. To date, insufficient research has been conducted concerning children and families who experience deployment within an Australian context. This study seeks to provide valuable insight into families with young children and explore their experiences of military deployment in an Australian context. Using a socio-constructivist approach, where truth is socially constructed both individually and culturally, ADF parents’ perceptions of their experiences are examined. Using Narrative Research, multiple methods of data collection are combined to gather various insights into families’ experiences. Data analysis was conducted using thematic verification identifying two main themes. Embracing an interpretivist epistemology, the researcher aims to create a shared knowledge around families’ understanding and experiences of deployment. Such knowledge will be helpful for effective support of parents, educators and professionals in their role with these children in the community.
Article
Full-text available
Objective Nearly 2.5 million service members have served on a deployment with a child at home since 2001. While deployment and reintegration (i.e., when the service member returns home) can negatively impact parenting practices, mindfulness strategies offer a new approach for coping with the stress and uncertainty associated with the deployment cycle. The objective of this paper is to further expand professionals’ understanding of how mindfulness can assist military parents. This paper explores the link between mindfulness practices and positive parenting outcomes, and uses the military reintegration period as a context for suggestions as to how professionals can incorporate mindfulness in their work with military families. Methods This comprehensive literature review outlines the research supporting the effectiveness of mindfulness techniques as they apply to parenting. Results This literature review offered key practices of mindful parenting (i.e., listening with full attention, nonjudgmental acceptance of self and child, compassion for self and others, self-regulation in the parenting relationship, and emotional awareness of self and child). This information was then applied within the context of three challenges military parents’ encounter during reintegration: renegotiating family roles and responsibilities, reconnecting with children, and managing changes in mental health. Conclusion Military families live both on and off bases throughout the USA and internationally. It is critical that those professionals who work with these families understand the unique contexts that these families encounter and continue to incorporate new tools and resources (e.g., mindfulness) that best serve each of these families.
Chapter
The military is the largest employer in the United States, with more than 3.5 million personnel currently serving in the Department of Defense (DoD) active duty, coast guard, and reserve (DoD, 2014a, b). As of 2017, there were 1,298,017 DoD active duty Service members, of which 1,055,972 were enlisted, 229,869 were officers, and 12,176 were cadets-midshipmen (DoD, 2017). In the reserve component, there are a total of 813,037 reservists: 131,928 officers and 681,109 enlisted (DoD, 2017). Alongside the active duty population, it is estimated that there are currently over 22 million veterans in the USA (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). Couple these figures with the number of partners and dependents/children of current or former Service members, and the opportunity for practitioners in medical family therapy (MedFT) to extend relational care to military and veteran populations grows exponentially. To give some perspective, approximately 54% of all military personnel are married, with higher rates for men (58%) than women (45%), and just over 11% of all active duty marriages as “dual marriages” (DoD, 2015). About 45% of those in a reserve component are married, with higher percentages in the Air National Guard (56%) and Air Force Reserve (55%) than as compared to the Marine Corps Reserve (27%) (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015). Of all current veterans, about 65% of men and 49% of women identify as married (United States Department of Veterans Affairs, 2017a). Further, 2.2% of active duty men and 10.7% of active duty women identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) (Gates & Newport, 2012). While the true number of LGB veterans is unknown, it is estimated that 3% of all LGB Americans are U.S. veterans. Approximately 15,500 of active duty Service members identify as transgender, with at least 134,000 veterans who identify as transgender (Gates & Herman, 2014). Whether partnered or not, there are approximately 1.2 million dependent children in active duty families and almost 744,000 dependent children in guard and reserve families (DoD, 2012). Behind each of these statistics is a face that is situated within multiple relationships, and whose biopsychosocial-spiritual (BPSS) health is determined—at least in part—by their likelihood to sustain a career with the military.
Article
Military families must navigate the various deployment phases, which may occur during sensitive periods of attachment formation, uniquely affecting the parent-child bond. Employing Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) principles, focus groups were conducted with military-involved parents (n = 18) to better understand the psychosocial needs of children. Using grounded theory, attachment issues surfaced as a strong theme. Despite their belief of being present via technology, parents found their children were not digitally connected in the same way, receiving the returning parent in unexpected ways. Strategies are discussed to develop interventions that will help reintegrate deployed service members into their families, including supporting and rebuilding parent-child relationships.
Article
Full-text available
Preface All individuals exist in social, political, historical, and economic contexts, and psychologists are increasingly called upon to understand the influence of these contexts on individuals' behavior. The "Guidelines on Multicultural Education, Training, Research, Practice, and Organiza- tional Change for Psychologists" reflect the continuing evolution of the study of psychology, changes in society at large, and emerging data about the different needs of par- ticular individuals and groups historically marginalized or disenfranchised within and by psychology based on their ethnic/racial heritage and social group identity or member- ship. These "Guidelines on Multicultural Education, Train- ing, Research, Practice, and Organizational Change for Psychologists" reflect knowledge and skills needed for the profession in the midst of dramatic historic sociopolitical changes in U.S. society, as well as needs of new constitu- encies, markets, and clients. The specific goals of these guidelines are to provide psychologists with (a) the rationale and needs for address- ing multiculturalism and diversity in education, training, research, practice, and organizational change; (b) basic information, relevant terminology, current empirical re- search from psychology and related disciplines, and other data that support the proposed guidelines and underscore their importance; (c) references to enhance ongoing edu- cation, training, research, practice, and organizational change methodologies; and (d) paradigms that broaden the purview of psychology as a profession.
Article
Full-text available
Military children face situations that are unique. Their parents may be deployed at any time, causing separations and reorganization of the family. How to assist these children lead their lives despite constant change and threat to the family is an understudied area. This article presents a potential consultation model to assist military children to remain in school and to stay motivated. By supporting the mental and emotional health of the children, the academic work could be more consistent. A consultee-centered approach is reviewed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Full-text available
To date, more than 1.3 million service members have served in the Global War on Terrorism. These men and women and their families face a range of stressful situations and must navigate many important tasks after a deployment. This article outlines four of the tasks of reintegration: redefining roles, expectations, and division of labor; managing strong emotions; abandoning emotional constriction and creating intimacy in relationships; and creating shared meaning. For each task, potential challenges are discussed and suggestions for how psychologists can support families are described. In addition, potential red flags and indicators that more intensive services may be warranted are reviewed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Full-text available
The psychometric properties of the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form (PSI-SF) were examined in a sample of 185 mothers and fathers. Factor analysis revealed 2 reasonably distinct factors involving parental distress and dysfunctional parent-child interactions. Both scales were internally consistent, and these scales were correlated with measures of parent psychopathology, parental perceptions of child adjustment, and observed parent and child behavior. PSI-SF scores were related to parent reports of child behavior 1 year later, and the Childrearing Stress subscale was a significant predictor of a parental history of abuse.
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
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.
Article
Given the growing number of military service members with families and the multiple combat deployments characterizing current war time duties, the impact of deployments on military children requires clarification. Behavioral and emotional adjustment problems were examined in children (aged 6 through 12) of an active duty Army or Marine Corps parent currently deployed (CD) or recently returned (RR) from Afghanistan or Iraq. Children (N = 272) and their at-home civilian (AHC) (N = 163) and/or recently returned active duty (AD) parent (N = 65) were interviewed. Child adjustment outcomes were examined in relation to parental psychological distress and months of combat deployment (of the AD) using mixed effects linear models. Parental distress (AHC and AD) and cumulative length of parental combat-related deployments during the child's lifetime independently predicted increased child depression and externalizing symptoms. Although behavioral adjustment and depression levels were comparable to community norms, anxiety was significantly elevated in children in both deployment groups. In contrast, AHC parental distress was greater in those with a CD (vs. RR) spouse. Findings indicate that parental combat deployment has a cumulative effect on children that remains even after the deployed parent returns home, and that is predicted by psychological distress of both the AD and AHC parent. Such data may be informative for screening, prevention, and intervention strategies.
Article
The effects of the military deployment of parent-soldiers on children and families need to be understood in the context of military culture as well as from developmental risk for maladjustment. Although research addressing such effects is limited in both scope and certainty, we can identify several key factors that relate to psychological risk, adjustment, and outcome. Most children are resilient to the effects of deployment of at least one of their parents, but children with preexisting psychological conditions, such as anxiety and depression, may be particularly vulnerable, as well as children with specific risk factors, such as child abuse, family violence, or parental substance abuse. A series of case vignettes illustrate the psychological adjustment and treatment implications for children with parents deployed in support of military combat operations.