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Making sense of changes in military partners’ post-deployment adjustment concern: Turning points, trajectories, and accounts

APA Citation:

Dorrance-Hall, E., Gettings, P., Wilson, S. R., Hintz, E., & Vidal, A. (2023). Making sense of changes in military partners’ post-deployment adjustment concern: Turning points, trajectories, and accounts. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 40(11), 3679-3702. https://doi.org/10.1177/02654075231187700

Abstract Created by REACH:

Rooted in life course theory, this qualitative study explored how romantic partners’ concern for their Service members (SM) changed over time – specifically, in relation to post-deployment adjustment. 26 partners rated their level of concern for their SM’s adjustment from homecoming to the present, then described and graphed events that changed their concern during that time. The study’s purpose was to (1) identify turning points (i.e., events that increased or decreased the partners’ level of concern) and explore trajectories of concern over time; (2) explore the partners’ accounts of why turning points were impactful; and (3) explain the role of time in the partners’ explanations of their changing post-deployment adjustment concerns. Overall, the partners’ understanding of turning points was varied and complex.



Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Spouse of service member or veteran


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


Cross-Sectional Study
Qualitative Study


Dorrance-Hall, Elizabeth, Gettings, Patricia, Wilson, Steven R., Hintz, Elizabeth, Vidal, Ana


Reintegration after a military service member returns home from deployment is a time of uncertainty that requires adjustment by all family members. Building on accounts (i.e., story-like constructions that help make sense of stressful events) scholarship, this study documents (a) turning points and (b) patterns in partners’ levels of concern about post-deployment adjustment and investigates (c) how romantic partners account for why changes in adjustment concern occurred. Findings from interviews with 26 military partners reveal that accounts (a) involve multifaceted explanations spanning many domains of life, (b) explain why certain TPs increased and/or decreased concern, and (c) engage the meaning of time in varied ways. The importance of integrating an account-making framework with the TP methodology, theoretical implications for relational turbulence theory, and practical suggestions are discussed.

Publication Type:

REACH Publication


reintegration, post-deployement

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  October 2023

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