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Relationship changes of military couples during reintegration: A longitudinal analysis

APA Citation:

Knobloch-Fedders, L. M., Knobloch, L. K., Scott, S., & Fiore, H. (2020). Relationship changes of military couples during reintegration: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 37(7), 2145-2165. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407520917461

Abstract Created by REACH:

Guided by the emotional cycle of the deployment model, which divides the deployment cycle into distinct stages and identifies issues that may occur at each stage, this longitudinal study examined the post-deployment transition experiences of military couples (i.e., returning Service members and their athome partners). Data from 555 military couples were collected monthly for seven months after the return of the Service member from deployment. Military couples completed questionnaires regarding demographics (e.g., age, race) and marital satisfaction. They also responded to open-ended questions about how their relationship had changed over the past month. Content analysis was used to code open-ended responses and capture the type and frequency of relationship changes as well as the valence of the changes (i.e., positive, negative, or neutral) over time. Findings suggest that the relationship between Service members and their at-home partners changes in a variety of ways during reintegration.



Branch of Service:

Air Force
Coast Guard
Marine Corps
Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

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


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


Longitudinal Study
Quantitative Study


Knobloch-Fedders, Lynne M., Knobloch, Leanne K., Scott, Samantha, Fiore, Hannah


This study drew on the emotional cycle of deployment model to track the content, valence, and sequence of relationship changes experienced by returning service members and at-home partners during the transition from deployment to reintegration. In a longitudinal study, 555 military couples (1,100 individuals) wrote 7,387 comments describing changes that had occurred in their relationship during the past month. A content analysis identified 10 substantive categories: emotional intimacy, sexual intimacy, spending time together, appraisals of the relationship, life changes, readjustment to daily life, conflict, family changes, commitment, and reports of no change. The frequency of changes reported in emotional intimacy, sexual intimacy, readjustment to daily life, and conflict declined across the transition. In contrast, reports of life changes, and comments stating that no change had occurred, increased over time. Independent coders judged each change as positive (42.1%), negative (32.4%), or neutral (25.5%) in valence. Participants described fewer positive changes as the transition progressed, although this tendency slowed over time. In contrast, the frequency of negative changes remained stable across the transition, and the frequency of neutral changes increased. The findings are used to advance theory, research, policy, and intervention designed to help military couples negotiate relationship changes across the post-deployment transition.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

SAGE Journals

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Marquette University, LMKF
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, LKK
University of Denver, SS
University of Pittsburgh, HF


deployment, dyadic data analysis, military couples

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


This research was supported by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs through the Military Operational Medicine Research Program (Award W81XWH-14-2-0131). The U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity, 820 Chandler Street, Fort Detrick MD 21702-5014, was the awarding and administering acquisition office. Interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the authors and are not necessarily endorsed by the U.S. Department of Defense

REACH Newsletter:

  August 2020

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