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Influence of family factors on service members' decisions to leave the military

APA Citation:

Woodall, K. A., Esquivel, A. P., Powell, T. M., Riviere, L. A., Amoroso, P. J., & Stander, V. A. (2022). Influence of family factors on service members' decisions to leave the military. Family Relations. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1111/fare.12757

Abstract Created by REACH:

Service members’ voluntary separation from the military (i.e., leaving the military after their contracts expire) is costly for the military, which then must recruit and train new members. Data from Service members and their spouses (N = 4,539 couples) from two time points (i.e., baseline and 3-year follow-up) were used to examine how aspects of military careers (e.g., combat severity), family life (e.g., marital quality, social support, financial concerns), work-family conflict, and military satisfaction at baseline related to voluntary separation at the 3-year follow-up. Overall, Service members who experienced greater combat severity (i.e., danger of being killed or attacked) were more likely to voluntarily separate from the military. Aspects of family life were indirectly associated with Service members’ voluntary separation via work-family conflict, military satisfaction, or both.



Branch of Service:

Air Force
Marine Corps
Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member
Guard/Reserve member
Spouse of service member or veteran


Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Quantitative Study


Woodall, Kelly A., Esquivel, Alejandro P., Powell, Teresa M., Riviere, Lyndon A., Amoroso, Paul J., Stander, Valerie A.


Background Service member retention is a crucial aspect in maintaining and advancing the U.S. military and its mission. To increase retention, it is important to understand why active duty personnel voluntarily leave while they are still highly qualified. For married service members, spouses likely influence the decision to stay or leave military service. Objective The current study used data from the Millennium Cohort Family Study for 4,539 dyads comprising service members and their spouses to investigate family predictors of voluntary military separation. Methods Multivariate mediation analyses were conducted to evaluate the role of military satisfaction (spouse and service member) and work–family conflict as mediators of the effects of both family life and military stressors on risk for military separation, while accounting for spouse and service member demographics. Results Results identified significant family factors operating through work–family conflict and military satisfaction that were associated with increased likelihood of service member voluntary separation, including number of children, spouse bothered by finances, and service member months away from home. Service members with spouses who reported higher levels of social support were significantly less likely to voluntarily separate, after operating through both work–family conflict and military satisfaction. Conclusion and Implications Findings suggest that work–family conflict and military satisfaction play an important synergistic role in predicting the impact family and career factors have on voluntary separation. These modifiable factors may guide potential interventions to increase military retention efforts.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Wiley Online

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Leidos, Inc., KAW
Leidos, Inc., APE
Military Population Health Directorate, Naval Health Research Center, KAW
Military Population Health Directorate, Naval Health Research Center, APE
Military Population Health Directorate, Naval Health Research Center, VAS
The Informatics Applications Group, TMP
Center for Military Psychiatry andNeuroscience, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, LAR
Readiness, Acceleration, and Innovation Network, PJA


retention, work-family conflict, social support

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  November 2022

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