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Study examines the effects of deployments on military divorces

The United States’ wars with Afghanistan and Iraq have increased the demands placed on the nation’s military service members. Consequently, this has also added to the unique stresses that are placed on military marriages. As a result of lengthened deployments, as well as the training time spent preparing for these extended tours of duty, military personnel and their spouses often spend months living apart. This not only requires them to learn how to communicate about any issues, marital or household, but also how to maintain an emotional connection through brief, and often irregular phone calls, email, instant messaging and, in some cases, web-cam sessions.

These lengthy deployments, according to a report by USA Today, can disrupt the expectations that spouses may have had when entering into their marriage. This can cause them to grow apart, which can lead to divorce. In some cases, service members may be back in the U.S. for as little as one year before being deployed again. This does not allow much time for those in struggling marriages to work on their issues.

Due to these, and other stressors, placed on military marriages, divorce is prevalent among military personnel, according to a recent RAND Corp. study. Researchers performing the study tracked the marital status of more than 460,000 enlisted service members, who got married between 1999 and 2008. The study also differentiated between the effects on those who joined and married before and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as well as between male versus female service members.

Based on the data gathered during the study, researchers found that 97 percent of all military divorces occurred following a deployment. They also identified that as the number of cumulative months deployed increased, so too did the risk for divorce. The likelihood of divorce was also greater for those who were on hostile deployments versus those on non-hostile missions. Couples who married before 9/11 were more greatly affected, with one in seven marriages ending in divorce, than those who married after 9/11, who saw one out of every eight couples get divorced.

Additionally, the study showed that the divorce rate is higher among female military personnel than their male counterparts, particularly when the wife is deployed on a combat tour. In those cases, there is a 50 percent chance in the first five years that a marriage will end in divorce, according to the study.

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