Making Sense of the Science:
Serving the Military Population
Service members and their families face unique challenges and opportunities associated with Military
life, such as frequent relocations, deployments, and an eventual transition from the Military to the
civilian sector. A supportive family environment serves as a buffer to the adversity faced by children
in Military families 1. Professionals can best serve this population by increasing their awareness and
understanding of these common issues and the potential impact.
Active Duty Service members move, on average, every two to three years 2. Due to the Service
member’s rank or specialty, the moves may occur more or less frequently. In most circumstances,
families relocate with their Service member, and each member of the Military Family experiences
the added stress of adapting to a new community 3.
A spouse job loss, moving costs, and
home equity loss may have a
negative financial impact3.
Related to decreased Military
satisfaction, commitment, and
retention intentions 4.
Experience a new community and
Adverse impact on financial
condition, educational enrollment,
and employment 5.
Loss of support network in former
Meet new people, thus expanding
their social network.
Experience a new community or
May increase family coping and
Changes in child care or schools3.
Loss of friendships3.
Loss of participation in activities
Allows children to build new
friendships and learning
Offers a fresh start in exploring
identity as an adolescent 7.
Potential exposure to new places or
A deployment is defined as the rotation of forces into and out of an operational area 8. Deployment
locations may be stateside or overseas training sites or peacekeeping or combat operations abroad.
Family members do not accompany the Service member on deployments. The duration of a
deployment varies by mission and Service Branch, but most range from three months up to a year or
more 9. Families already struggling with emotional, relationship, or financial problems are more
affected by deployments than those families that function well before deployment3. Multiple and
prolonged deployments generally have worse effects on families than fewer and shorter
deployments3. Communication can benefit every member of the family during a deployment
particularly if expectations about communication frequency are realistic 10.
Encounter life threatening
Separation from family11.
Missing family events and
milestones, such as births, birthdays,
holidays, and graduations.
National Guard and Reserve Service
members may experience a decline
in income during deployment 12.
May experience readjustment
challenges and an increased
likelihood of marital instability 13.
Heightened depressive and anxiety
Added household responsibilities and
May experience readjustment
Foreign-born and younger spouses
may have an increased risk for poor
Strengthen support networks 18.
Positive coping may include having a
positive attitude, using the
deployment as a time for personal
development, channeling anxiety
into other activities, and developing
a routine 19.
Can prompt depression, anxiety, and
Primary care-giver’s mental health
and coping can directly influence the
child’s ability to cope 20.
May experience readjustment
Support with regulating emotions
and talking with a caring adult or
parent about concerns may help to
Taking on additional responsibilities
during the deployment can build a
sense of self-efficacy and personal
Active Duty Service members may
experience an increase in pay due to
May strengthen job skills due to
extensive training prior to
Potential to use learned and
enhanced skills in real situations13.
Regular communication with family
may boost Service member morale,
especially for married Service
TRANSITION (i.e., SEPARATION OR RETIREMENT)
Active Duty service for Military members averages about six years for enlisted members and eleven
years for officers 21; most Service members transition from the Military before retirement eligibility 22.
In the next few years, about one million Service members will transition into the civilian sector 23.
Early transition planning can help alleviate potential difficulties and allow Service members and their
families to create realistic expectations for life in the civilian community 24. Each Service Branch
offers free transition counseling for Service members.
May experience readjustment
difficulties related to finances,
substance abuse, and
Little to no previous civilian work
experience due to enlisting or
commissioning soon after high school
or college graduation 25.
May experience a lengthy period of
unemployment (averaging 17 weeks),
with rates highest for 18- to 24-yearold Veterans 26.
Service-related mental and physical
health issues may impact
reintegration to civilian life 27.
Transition may be unexpected and
may not be voluntary.
May experience another relocation 28,
leading to loss of support network
and job loss if employed at time of
May experience another relocation28
that results in a change of child care
or schools and loss of friendships and
participation in sports and activities.
Timely access to programs and
services may improve chances of
positive health, economic, and
Combat Veterans are generally
eligible to receive 5 years of free
health care through the Veterans
May be eligible for Veteran
benefits, such as reduced home and
Retirees receive monthly pension
income, continued health insurance
benefits, and access to
commissaries and installation
Likelihood of fewer family
Retiree spouses may receive
continued health insurance benefits
and access to commissaries and
Likelihood of fewer relocations and
Likelihood of fewer child care or
school changes due to relocation.
Continuity of activities and sports.
Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness
The Pennsylvania State University
Email: [email protected]
Live Chat: http://www.militaryfamilies.psu.edu/assistance/live-chat
This material is the result of a partnership funded by the Department of Defense between the Office of Military
Community and Family Policy and the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture through a
grant/cooperative agreement with Penn State University.
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