Using a subsample of 2369 men from the CDS who had married by the age of 30 years, Call and Teachman (1996) embarked on a study of 610 Vietnam-combat veterans, 581 Vietnam-era veterans, and 1666 nonveterans. The study assessed the rates and timing of marriage and the association between deployment and marital stability. A multivariate analysis was used to account for variation in the duration of martial disruption, specifically divorce. By 1980, the prevalence of divorce was 28% in nonveterans, 34% in veterans (both theater and era) who married before military service (less then 10% of the sample), 28% in veterans who married during service, and 21% in veterans who married after service. Combat exposure had no significant effect on the likelihood of being divorced. Marrying for the first time after military service increased marital stability.
Although both those CDS studies provided complex multivariate analyses with comparisons between deployed and nondeployed veterans, they had some methodologic limitations. The sample consisted only of white men whose families had slightly higher socioeconomic status and higher educational achievement than other such studies and there were no minorities in the sample, so the studies lacked representativeness.
Several secondary studies have reported an association between deployment and marital conflict and dissatisfaction. Several studies that assessed the relationship between PTSD and marital conflict in veteran populations are also briefly discussed. Finally, the committee reviewed four additional secondary studies that reported positive findings that specifically address the role of deployment-related marital and family conflict in psychosocial effects on children.
Two studies that yielded negative findings regarding the association between deployment and marital functioning were published in 1996. The survey by Schumm et al. (1996b) of 806 married active-duty soldiers inquired about marital satisfaction at the time of the survey in 1991-1992, and in 1990 before the invasion of Kuwait. Soldiers who had deployed in the Gulf War showed no significant overall changes with respect to marital satisfaction; this suggested that the effect of deployment was neutral for couples who remained married for 18 months after the conflict, regardless of their predeployment marital satisfaction. Limitations of the study included lack of presentation of results, the absence of a comparison nondeployed group, and the retrospective nature of the predeployment marriage assessment.
The second study was conducted by Schumm et al. (1996a) in August 1993. They examined the perceived effects of stressors on marital satisfaction in civilian wives of enlisted soldiers deployed to Somalia for 6 months from December 1992 to July 1993. Marital stability was a strong predictor of marital satisfaction. The results suggest that being stressed during a husband’s deployment by being pregnant, experiencing loneliness or missing the spouse, having problems in communication with the spouse, or having a close friend or family member die did not result in more marital dissatisfaction a month after the return of the spouse. However, those results must be interpreted with caution because the survey was conducted during the “honeymoon” period (that is, the first 3 months after return), the deployments were relatively short and uneventful, and many of the soldiers and spouses were familiar with the deployment experience.
Prigerson et al. (2001) conducted a cross-sectional survey of a subsample of the 1990-1992 National Comorbidity Study to explore the risk factors for veterans with PTSD symptoms. Of the sample of 1703 men who indicated that they had experienced a trauma, 96 reported