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Deployment-related coping strategies in military couples: Associations with relationship satisfaction

APA Citation:

Giff, S. T., Renshaw, K. D., Carter, S. P., & Paige, L. C. (2020). Deployment-related coping strategies in military couples: Associations with relationship satisfaction. Military Psychology, 32(6), 432-440. https://doi.org/10.1080/08995605.2020.1803725

Abstract Created by REACH:

Using a sample of National Guard/Reserve Service members (n = 154) and their romantic partners (n = 151) who experienced a deployment, this study examined the association between coping and relationship satisfaction while accounting for mental health (i.e., Service members’ posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD] and partners’ psychological distress [i.e., depression, anxiety, and stress]). More specifically, three different forms of coping were explored for both partners: problem-focused (i.e., when an individual tries to change a stressor), emotion-focused (i.e., managing one’s own emotional reaction to the stressor), and avoidance (i.e., avoiding the stressor). Higher levels of romantic partners’ emotion-focused coping were associated with increased relationship satisfaction, whereas avoidance coping was associated with lower relationship satisfaction for both Service members and romantic partners.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

Air Force

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member
Guard/Reserve member
Military families
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


Giff, Sarah T., Renshaw, Keith D., Carter, Sarah P., Paige, Lauren C.


Military deployments are known to be stressful for both military service members (SMs) and their romantic partners. Little is known about how coping strategies used during deployment may relate to one’s own and one’s partner’s relationship satisfaction following deployment. This project investigated the retrospective report of how 154 SMs and their romantic partners coped with deployment-related stress, using previously established coping constructs of problem-focused, emotion-focused, and avoidance coping. Examination of relative associations of coping strategies and mental health symptoms with SMs’ and partners’ relationship satisfaction showed that partners’ emotion-focused coping was positively related to both SMs’ and partners’ relationship satisfaction, whereas partners’ avoidance was negatively related to both their own and SMs’ relationship satisfaction. Results highlight the importance of partner coping within military couples and point to potential strategies for coping with deployment that are associated with enhanced relationship functioning after deployment.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Taylor & Francis

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Psychology, George Mason University, STG
Department of Psychology, George Mason University, KDR
Department of Medical & Clinical Psychology, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, SPC
Department of Psychology, George Mason University, LCP


coping, couples, military, relationship satisfaction, stress

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  April 2021

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