The Deployment Life Study

  • U.S. Army soldier holds his daughter after a deployment ceremony at the Alaska National Guard Armory

    Insights from the Deployment Life Study

    Study findings describe the effects of deployment on marital relationships, family environment, psychological and behavioral health, child well-being, and military integration.

About the Study

The Deployment Life Study examines how deployment affects the health and well-being of military families over the course of three years. The success of military operations depends not only on the preparation of service members, but also on the preparation of their families—a concept known as family readiness. This study, conducted by the RAND Corporation, helps us learn more about the skills and tools that military families need in order to handle the stresses associated with deployments.

The study is unique because it followed multiple members of the military families—service member, spouse, and, if eligible, a child—at four month intervals over three years. By collecting data over time we learn more about the kinds of help families need throughout the deployment cycle, a first step in developing policies and programs designed to assist and strengthen these military families.

In 2011, the Deployment Life Study randomly selected Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine families for participation in the study. Families received a letter in the mail from RAND inviting their participation along with instructions for how to begin the enrollment process. In each family, a service member, his or her spouse, and a child 11 years old or older (if there was one in the household) each provided information independently. Data collection took place at several points in time—before, during, and after deployment. Most study participants chose to complete the follow-up surveys online but we also used a team of professional interviewers for those who preferred to complete the surveys by phone. Data collection ended in spring, 2015.

RAND is currently analyzing information gathered from the survey to describe how deployments affect a range of family outcomes, and to identify characteristics of families who manage the challenges of deployments successfully as well as characteristics of families who find the experience more difficult.

Outcomes of particular interest include:

  • emotional, behavioral, and physical health of family members,
  • quality of marital and parental relationships,
  • child outcomes (e.g., school performance, social development),
  • military career outcomes (e.g., attitudes toward military service, retention intentions), and
  • financial well-being.

This project is funded by the offices of the U.S. Army Surgeon General and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. The study is a joint research initiative of the RAND Arroyo Center, and the RAND National Defense Research Institute.

The study is led by three RAND researchers: Terri Tanielian, Sarah Meadows and Benjamin Karney

Final Report