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Returning to civilian life: Family reintegration challenges and resilience of women veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars

APA Citation:

Leslie, L. A., & Koblinsky, S. A. (2017). Returning to civilian life: Family reintegration challenges and resilience of women veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Journal of Family Social Work, 20(2), 106-123. https://doi.org/10.1080/10522158.2017.1279577

Abstract Created by REACH:

Little is known about how the experience of military service in Iraq and Afghanistan has affected female Veterans as they return to family life. This qualitative study assessed the experience of female Veterans as they transition back to family roles and responsibilities following separation from the military. Results indicated that female Veterans drew on their strength and resilience when dealing with family challenges.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

Air Force
Marine Corps
Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:


Subject Affiliation:



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


Qualitative Study
Cross-Sectional Study


Leslie, Leigh A., Koblinsky, Sally A.


The cohort of women who served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) was the largest group of women in history to serve in the military and be deployed to combat zones. This large cohort is now moving into veteran status as the numbers of deployed service members decreases. Upon separation from the military, many of these women step back into family roles and responsibilities. To date, there has been sparse research on how military service, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, has affected the family relationships, family functioning, and parenting of women veterans. In an effort to better understand the experiences of women veterans as they return to their families and civilian life, five focus groups were conducted with 29 veterans. Analysis of focus group transcripts revealed seven common challenges, ranging from adjustments to the civilian pace of life and developmental changes in children’s behavior to managing anger and difficult emotional interactions with family members. Women demonstrated strength and resilience in dealing with family challenges by employing four common strategies, such as making meaning of their military service, accessing veteran social support, and drawing on military-acquired skills. Implications of the findings for social work practice are discussed.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Taylor & Francis

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Family Science, University of Maryland, LAL
Department of Family Science, University of Maryland, SAK


resilience, war, afghanistan, questionnaires, social support, iraq, family stress, women veterans, focus groups, psychology of veterans, adaptability (psychology), family relations, family relationships, financing of research, psychology of women, resilience (personality trait), reunions (psychological aspects), social adjustment

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


This research was funded by contract #431891: Enhancing the Behavioral Health and Successful Reintegration of Women Veterans in Maryland, from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

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