Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Impact of Military Deployment on Family Relationships

Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Impact of Military Deployment on Family Relationships

Article excerpt

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.

Key words: family; military; stress; deployment; relationship; parenting

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The armed forces maintain their own diverse cultural, demographic and personal constructs and as such, 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 times of transition. The unique demands of military life include change of duty stations on average every 2-3 years and prolonged absence of the active duty member during deployments, temporary duty assignments (TDYs), and frequent trainings.

The mobility of over 1.2 million school-aged dependents each school year as a result of change of duty station is a significant hardship for military families (Horton, 2005; Lincoln, Swift, & Shorteno-Fraser, 2008). Families must repeatedly adjust to being in new and unfamiliar environments and the negative impact of family instability is likely magnified for dependent spouses and children as compared to nonmilitary families (Segal, 1986).

One distinctive challenge faced by children from military families includes lack of uniformity in educational programming. Frequent moves may cause lapses in the general education curriculum, individual education plans (IEP), and disruption to instructional and behavioral interventions (i.e., Response to Intervention, RTI) some or all of which take place in most school settings. Parents of military dependents express ongoing concern over the educational challenges faced by their children, and the lack of specialized support military families and their children need from the school (Lincoln et al., 2008). Such concerns appear to be warranted given that military children experience lower motivation and higher dropout rates as compared to their nonmilitary peers (Horton, 2005).

Military life can also be extremely stressful on families and children due to prolonged absence of the active duty member during deployments, TDYs, and frequent trainings. Such challenges are increasingly relevant considering the military combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since September 11, 2001, more than 1.3 million American service members have been deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism (Bowling & Sherman, 2008).

The deployment process itself is inherently stressful for military families. Routine operations for active duty members while stationed at a home base during pre-deployment may cause an underlying level of anxiety. Military members understand that it is inevitable that they will deploy at some time, which may serve as a constant source of stress for them and their families (Solomon, 1993). Active duty members must ensure that when it is time to deploy, they have their home in order, finances properly allocated, bills sorted, and children's schedules arranged. They must have prepared a will and power of attorney, and be mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared to say goodbye to their immediate and extended family upon deployment (Military One Source, 2009).

For the family member remaining behind, the time during a deployment can seem like an eternity experienced as a series of emotional ebbs and flows as they attempt to cope with the demands of a single parent family (Military Installations and Community Directory, 2010). …

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