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Military-related relocation stress and psychological distress in military partners

APA Citation:

Ribeiro, S., Renshaw, K. D., & Allen, E. S. (2023). Military-related relocation stress and psychological distress in military partners. Journal of Family Psychology, 37(1), 45-53. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0001030

Abstract Created by REACH:

This longitudinal study examined the role of military-related relocation problems, such as lack of social support or changing jobs, in the psychological distress (e.g., depressive symptoms, stress) of civilian partners. Civilian partners (N = 277 women) completed questionnaires on their psychological distress and their Soldiers’ posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms at baseline (T1) and at 1-, 7-, and 13-month follow-ups (T2–T4). The length of deployment separation was reported at T1, and general military-related relocation problems were reported at T4. Overall, partners who reported more problems from military-related relocations tended to report greater psychological distress.


Mental health

Branch of Service:


Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Spouse of service member or veteran


Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)


Longitudinal Study
Quantitative Study


Ribeiro, Sissi, Renshaw, Keith D., Allen, Elizabeth S.


Spouses/partners play a crucial role in providing support to military service members (SMs), maintaining a sense of stability for the family, and supporting the overall mission of the armed forces. However, several aspects of the military lifestyle may impact their own psychological health. Much research has focused on the role of SMs’ deployments and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in partners’ distress, but no study has yet quantitatively investigated these factors in tandem with the common military life stressor of frequent relocations. The present study investigated the degree to which problems from service-related moves, couple deployment separation, and SMs’ PTSD symptoms uniquely predict partner psychological distress. Data were collected from female partners of Army soldiers who completed online surveys across four timepoints (over 1.5 years) following a deployment. Surveys assessed psychological distress, perceptions of SMs’ PTSD symptoms, problems from service-related moves, and deployment separation. Multilevel modeling was used, with longitudinal data treated as repeated measures (i.e., not modeling change over time). Results indicated that problems from service-related moves were associated with greater psychological stress, even when accounting for SMs’ PTSD symptoms and deployment separation. Deployment separation itself was not a significant predictor of psychological distress. Findings indicate that problems associated with frequent moves may be a significant contributor to increased psychological distress for partners above and beyond challenges associated with SMs’ PTSD symptoms. Recommendations for future research and limitations are also provided.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

American Psychological Association

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Psychology, George Mason University, SR
Department of Psychology, George Mason University, KDR
Department of Psychology, University of Colorado Denver, ESA


relocation, separation, stress

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


This research and development project was conducted by University of Colorado Denver, approved by the Colorado Multiple Institution Board, effective December 14, 2012, and is made possible by a research grant that was awarded and administered by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and the United States Army Medical Research and
Materiel Command, under contract number (Award no. W81XWH-12-1-0090) to Elizabeth S. Allen.

REACH Newsletter:

  February 2023

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