The residential combat zone: Exploring the effects of deployments and combat exposure on military marriages
Literature has long acknowledged unique stressors that military service introduces to its members; yet, few studies have systematically explored the impacts that both combat and non-combat deployments as well as combat exposure have on the families of the service member. This study fills a critical gap by utilizing the integrated family stress model to predict two specific marital outcomes, namely, marital conflict and marital dissolution. A careful literature review suggests that the family stress model is insufficient in providing a holistic depiction of the influence of deployment-related stressors on military marriages. As a result, this study proposes an integrated family stress model to provide a comprehensive approach by including two strategic resources that impact military families, namely, religion and counseling. Drawing on a public use dataset from the 2011 Military Health-Related Behaviors Survey, this study examines how combat versus non-combat deployments and levels of combat exposure affect marital conflict and dissolution following deployments. It also investigates how resources, i.e., religion and utilization of various types of counseling services, may offset the effects that deployment-related stressors have on two distinct marital outcomes: conflict and dissolution. While combat exposure is linked to increased marital conflict and risk for dissolution, results suggest that deployments may have a stabilizing effect on military marriages. Further research is necessary to determine how these relationships manifest themselves when additional sociodemographic characteristics are statistically controlled. Additionally, longitudinal research designs should be utilized in future research to investigate how changing military stressors will affect military marriages over time.