By Ms. Marie Berberea (TRADOC)May 10, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla.-- After a decade of war and repeated deployments, military divorce rates have not exceeded the rate of broken marriages reported among their civilian peers, according to a recent report in the "Journal of Family Issues."
The co-authors of the study, Benjamin Karney, David Loughran and Michael Pollard -- argue that these annual divorce statistics can't be used to judge the vulnerability of military marriages in peace or prolonged war, unless benchmarked against divorce rates for employed civilians of comparable age, race and education level.
Their study finds "the results speak to the resilience of military marriages. Despite the demands of military service and the threat of long separations, service members are nevertheless more likely to be married than matched civilians. The report finds "service members are still no more likely to be divorced than comparable civilians."
Lisa Jansen-Rees, Family Advocacy Program manager, said she's not surprised but she is excited these findings show that after 10 years of the Army being at war, the military divorce rates are no higher now than they were in the year 2000. It also shows they are actually lower than its civilian counterparts when the demographics such as age, race and gender are all held equal.
"I think what we can all attribute it to is the success of the Army's family programs and wellness initiatives," said Jansen-Rees. "When I read this article I start thinking of the programs we offer like the 'Seven Habits for Highly Effective Military Families,' the positive psychology we're teaching through the master resilience training, the strong bonds retreats that our chaplains hold where our Army Community Service staff goes out to assist them by doing curriculum like PAIRS, or Practical Applications for Interpersonal Relationship Skills. When you think about deployment and the separation deployments bring or a permanent change of station brings when the Soldiers are home, you would imagine all of those challenges would cause friction and stress in a marriage but our military marriages thrive in spite of those challenges," she said. "It is great news and we like to focus on the positive."
There is more than just marriage training through ACS. There are several different approaches to family resiliency.
"It's what we call the holistic aspect to being a human being. Holistic seems like a big word but it just means the body, mind and spirit connection. Basically, what it is saying is as human beings all the parts of our life are connected. So if there is discord in one part of our life it is going to affect all the other aspects of our lives," she said. "That same rule applies to resiliency training and skills training. You've got to hit every aspect of it the physical, emotional, spiritual and cognitive and you got to hit them all and not just with one member of the family but with everybody in the family."
The Army resiliency training is focusing on the whole person and the whole family.
"There's the training available in the unit and online through comprehensive Soldier fitness, there is the training, services and programs available to the family members through places like Army Community Service, and there are the programs, training and services available to the younger family members through Child Youth and School Services. When all three of them are lined up and all providing resiliency training in some aspect of it and hitting the entire family demographic then you get this outcome."
According to Jansen-Rees, redeployment, reunion and reintegration in the family are definitely stressor points in a marriage.
"I think this study shows that because the Army has put proactive after-deployment training requirements into play for the Soldier and the family at reunion and reintegration, they're managing it and they are staying together."
All Army families go through these experiences, and in the training they are told "you are not alone in this, just look to your right, look to your left.
"Chances are good the person on either side of you is going through the same thing. Talk to each other and see what works for them."
"From the psychological or social work aspect we call that normalizing the experience and the truth is that one of the great things about military esprit de corps is that our buddies are all going through the same thing," she said.
The result is Soldiers and their families feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves part of the Army Family.
"For us living here in the Lawton-Fort Sill area I can honestly say that our community covenant partners also understand the unique challenges that life presses upon our military families. I talk to several of them regularly in my job and they are all well aware of the special challenges we face in the military and offer complimentary services to what is already offered on post," said Jansen-Rees.
One of the things the Army Family Covenant does is to make sure there is a standard of programs and services for family members no matter what post they go to and it is the Army's reassurance that while the Soldiers are gone, their families will be well taken care of back here.
"Being a long-term Army member, I have seen a difference from before we had the family covenant to after in the level of programs and services family members can expect. This study is just another example that the initiative is working," she said.
"Because I'm old Army, I can remember that old adage when they said if the Army wanted you to have a spouse, they would have issued one. This article shows the programs and services through the Army Family and Army Community Covenants ensure that those days are long gone," she said.