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Relational turbulence and perceptions of partner support during reintegration after military deployment

APA Citation:

Knobloch, L. K., Basinger, E D., & Theiss, J. A. (2018). Relational turbulence and perceptions of partner support during reintegration after military deployment. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 46(1), 52-73. https://doi.org/10.1080/00909882.2017.1409906

Abstract Created by REACH:

A service member’s return from deployment is often viewed positively, yet during reintegration, challenges to the couple relationship emerge. The relational turbulence theory suggests that repeated instances of relational uncertainty (being unsure about either your personal or your partner’s investment in the relationship or about the future of the relationship) and interference (having your goals impeded by your partner) lead to a turbulent couple relationship, characterized as chaotic and fragile. Turbulence, then, results in less supportiveness from one’s partner. Support for this theory emerged among a sample of 235 military-affiliated individuals (117 service members and 118 at-home) who reported about their own and their partner’s relational uncertainty, interference, turbulence, and support.



Branch of Service:

Air Force
Marine Corps
Multiple branches

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)


Cross-sectional study


Knobloch, Leanne K., Basinger, Erin D., Theiss, Jennifer A.


The transition from deployment to reintegration can be stressful for returning military personnel and at-home partners, and support plays a key role in their ability to transition effectively. We draw on relational turbulence theory to advance predictions about how parameters of the relationship between returning service members and at-home partners predict their perceptions of their partner’s support during the post-deployment transition. We surveyed 235 individuals (117 returning service members, 118 at-home partners) who had experienced the transition within the past 6 months. Findings consistent with the theory indicated that relational turbulence partially mediated the negative associations that relational uncertainty and interference from a partner shared with partner support. Partner uncertainty was a direct negative predictor of partner support as well. We consider how these results extend theory, research, and practice.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Taylor & Francis Ltd

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Communication, University of Illinois, LKK
Department of Communication Studies, University of North Carolina, EDB
Department of Communication, Rutgers University, JAT


interference from a partner, military deployment, relational turbulence, relational uncertainty, social support

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  November 2018

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