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Associations between prior deployments and marital satisfaction among Army couples

APA Citation:

Karney, B. R., & Trail, T. E. (2017). Associations between prior deployments and marital satisfaction among Army couples. Journal of Marriage and Family, 79(1), 147-160. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12329

Abstract Created by REACH:

The deployment of a spouse who serves in the military can place additional stress on a marriage. This study sought to examine the explicit relationship between prior deployments, combat exposure, and symptoms of PTSD on couples’ level of marital satisfaction. Findings revealed that more deployments, especially combat-related, lowered marital satisfaction among military couples.


Mental health

Branch of Service:


Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

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)


Empirical Study
Quantitative Study


Karney, Benjamin R., Trail, Thomas E.


Although the experience of deployments has been described as devastating to married life, evidence linking deployments directly to poorer marital functioning has been sparse. The analyses described in this article compare associations between prior deployments and current marital satisfaction across four different ways of measuring prior deployment within a large and representative sample of married Army service members and their spouses. Results indicate that the experience of prior deployments is associated with significantly lower current marital satisfaction among military couples. The association is disproportionately strong for first deployments and first cumulative months of deployment and weakens over subsequent deployment experiences. Most of these associations, but not all, can be accounted for by the fact that service members who have been deployed are more likely to have experienced traumatic events and to experience posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, both of which are independently associated with lower levels of marital satisfaction.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, BRK
RAND Corporation, TET


posttraumatic stress disorder, stress, deployment, military families, marital quality

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


Office of the Surgeon General/U.S. Army/Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, US

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