(334) 844-3299
Detailed Record
Share this Article

Financial boundary ambiguity among military spouses

APA Citation:

McCoy, M., O’Neal, C. W., Gale, J., Goetz, J., & Mancini, J. (2021). Financial boundary ambiguity among military spouses. Family Relations, 70(4), 1265-1279. https://doi.org/10.1111/fare.12520

Abstract Created by REACH:

During transitions, such as deployment and reintegration, couples may experience confusion around family roles and responsibilities. This boundary ambiguity during transitions can include uncertainty regarding financial roles (e.g., creating a budget, paying bills), which could contribute to relationship challenges. Informed by family stress models, this study examined the links between family resources, such as family flexibility (i.e., the family’s ability to maintain stability while also adapting to change), couples’ satisfaction with their communication, and their financial boundary ambiguity (i.e., couples’ abilities to adjust financial roles post-deployment) in a sample of 206 couples with men Service members and civilian wives. Further, this study examined linkages between family flexibility, satisfaction with communication, financial boundary ambiguity, and marital satisfaction. Family flexibility and satisfaction with communication were associated with lower financial boundary ambiguity, which, in turn, was related to higher marital satisfaction for civilian wives.



Branch of Service:


Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member
Spouse of service member or veteran


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


Cross-Sectional Study
Quantitative Study
Secondary Analysis


McCoy, Megan, O'Neal, Catherine Walker, Gale, Jerry, Goetz, Joseph, Mancini, Jay A.


Objective The military lifestyle of extended training programs and deployments creates a need to clearly define each partner's roles and responsibilities after each departure and reunion. Background Previous researchers have discovered that the less ambiguity that occurs when an individual enters or departs the family system, the less likely the family is to experience strain or crisis. One challenging area of boundary definition is finances, as couples tend to avoid talking about money which may contribute to financial boundary ambiguity. Methods This study applies the contextual model of family stress to examine financial boundary ambiguity and its association with marital quality in the post-deployment stage. This article presents a theory-driven exploration of financial boundary ambiguity using the actor–partner interdependence model and structural equation modeling. Results Study findings indicate that role flexibility, as well as clear and open communication, are related to less financial boundary ambiguity. This, in turn, is related to higher marital quality, although there are differences in the actor and partner effects between financial boundary ambiguity and marital relations. Conclusion To more fully understand coping and resilience among military couples, the authors applied the contextual model of family stress focused on financial elements to clarify the significance of how the couples navigated their roles and interactions. Implications Programs focused on financial and relational health should focus on fostering communication around financial roles during periods of transition, such as the deployment cycle. In particular, programs should be oriented around strategies for reducing the stress that surrounds financial uncertainties and strain, in addition to teaching effective financial management.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

John Wiley & Sons

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Financial Planning Department, Kansas State University, MM
University of Georgia, CWO
University of Georgia, JG
University of Georgia, JG
University of Georgia, JAM


communication, contextual model of family stress, financial boundary ambiguity, marital quality, military

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


U.S. Department of Agriculture (NIFA award No. 2009‐48680‐06069, Jay A. Mancini, Principal Investigator)

REACH Newsletter:

  June 2021

This website uses cookies to improve the browsing experience of our users. Please review Auburn University’s Privacy Statement for more information. Accept & Close