Families under Stress: An Assessment of Data, Theory, and Research on Marriage and Divorce in the Military

Families under Stress: An Assessment of Data, Theory, and Research on Marriage and Divorce in the Military

Families under Stress: An Assessment of Data, Theory, and Research on Marriage and Divorce in the Military

Families under Stress: An Assessment of Data, Theory, and Research on Marriage and Divorce in the Military

Synopsis

The authors estimate marriage and marital dissolution trends from 1996 to 2005, and the effects of recent deployments on risk of ending a marriage. Marital dissolution rates across services and components are currently similar to those seen in 1996, when the demands on the military were measurably lower. Service members who were deployed had a lower risk of subsequently ending their marriages than those who did not deploy or deployed fewer days.

Excerpt

Since the onset of the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the demands on the military have been higher than they have been at any time since the Vietnam War. In particular, deployments, especially for the Army and the Marine Corps, have been longer, more frequent, and more dangerous than they have been in the past. In the summer and fall of 2005, briefings delivered to Dr. David Chu, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, raised concerns that these lengthy separations were leading to rising divorce rates among military families. Those concerns, in turn, raised broader questions about the effects of military service on military marriages and about the most effective ways of addressing the needs of military families.

The overarching goal of the research and analyses described in this monograph is to provide an empirical and theoretical foundation for discussions of these issues. In pursuit of this goal, we ask three questions. First, what has the accumulated research and theory on military marriages contributed to an understanding of how and why military marriages succeed or fail? To address this question, we reviewed the existing theoretical and empirical literature on military marriage, identifying the strengths and limitations of this literature for understanding the effects of deployment on marriages in the current environment. Second, how have rates of transition into and out of marriage within the military changed since the onset of the global war on terror? To address this question, we drew on the last ten years of service personnel records (i.e., five years before and after the attacks of 2001) to estimate trends in marriage and marital dissolution for the active and reserve . . .

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