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Everything here is fine: Protective buffering by military spouses during a deployment

APA Citation:

Carter, S. P., Renshaw, K. D., Allen, E. S., Markman, H. J., & Stanley, S. M. (2020). Everything here is fine: Protective buffering by military spouses during a deployment. Family Process, 59(3), 1261-1274. https://doi.org/10.1111/famp.12457

Abstract Created by REACH:

It is common for civilian partners to struggle with how much information to share with their service members during deployment given that such conversations might distract the service members during high-risk situations, putting them or others in danger. Thus, some civilian partners report using protective buffering during deployments where they do not readily share concerns from the home front and/or conceal problems or information to shield their service member. The current study examined data from 54 couples who completed assessments pre-, during, and post-deployment regarding the civilian partner’s use of protective buffering, the service member’s family-related distraction (i.e., thinking about family members or family situations while performing job duties), and both partners’ marital satisfaction and psychological distress. Although almost all civilian partners reported using protective buffering during deployment, this strategy was not associated with the service members’ being less distracted by family-related concerns while deployed. Instead, protective buffering was associated with higher psychological distress and lower levels of marital satisfaction for both the civilian partner and the service member.



Branch of Service:


Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member
Spouse of service member or veteran


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


Longitudinal Study
Quantitative Study


Carter, Sarah P., Renshaw, Keith D., Allen, Elizabeth S., Markman, Howard J., Stanley, Scott M.


To minimize potential distractions for deployed military service members (SMs), some nondeployed romantic partners have reported engaging in protective buffering, or intentionally withholding information or concerns to protect their deployed partner. This study assessed the associations of protective buffering and psychological distress and marital satisfaction for military couples during and after deployment. Additionally, the study explored whether protective buffering was related to SM reports of being distracted during deployment by family matters. A total of 54 couples provided data before, during, and after an Army deployment. In multilevel models, higher protective buffering by partners was associated with higher psychological distress and lower marital satisfaction for both SMs and partners during, but not after, deployment. Additionally, partners reported frequent use of protective buffering during deployment; however, protective buffering was not significantly correlated with family related distraction for SMs during deployment. Limitations and implications of these findings are discussed.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

John Wiley & Sons

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Psychology, George Mason University, SPC
Department of Psychology, George Mason University, KDR
Seattle-Denver Center of Innovation for Veteran-Centered Value-Driven Care, VA Puget Sound Health Services, SPC
Department of Health Services, University of Washington, SPC
University of Colorado, ESA
University of Denver, HJM
University of Denver, SMS


protective buffering, romantic relationships, military, deployment, communication

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  March 2020

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