The Deployment Life Study Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • 1. What is the Deployment Life Study?

    The US Army Surgeon General and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs asked RAND Corporation to conduct this study to learn more about how deployment affects soldiers and their families. The findings will help the military design programs that better support families across the deployment cycle.

  • 2. Who was recruited to be in this study?

    The study was open to married couples where at least one partner was serving in the United States Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps at the time of study enrollment. The service member could have been in either the Active or Reserve Component. If couples had a child between the ages of 11 and 17 years old, that child was also eligible to participate, but childless couples were not excluded. Families who were randomly selected to be part of this study received a letter in the mail from RAND inviting them to participate, along with instructions for how to begin the enrollment process.

  • 3. What did participation involve?

    The study began with a telephone interview that took about 45 minutes to complete (30 minutes for children). The study continued with a series of web surveys, one every 4 months, over the following 3 years. When it was time to take a survey, we sent participants the URL address to our website with instructions on how to access the survey. Each of these follow-up surveys took about 30 minutes and could be completed at any time convenient for the participant. Each survey remained open for two months. We then sent participants an email notification and letter each time a new survey was available to complete.

  • 4. What kind of information did RAND collect?

    The range of questions in the surveys was broad and varied depending upon whether the survey was for the service member, spouse, or child. We also asked different questions depending upon the component in which the service member served and where each family was in the deployment cycle. We asked questions about the individual, his or her family, and their community as well as some questions about their own experiences with the military. We were particularly interested in how families respond to challenges at each phase of a deployment cycle. Participation in this study was completely confidential and entirely voluntary; anyone recruited into the study could refuse any question at any time for any reason.

  • 5. How does RAND ensure that answers will remain confidential?

    The privacy and confidentiality of our study participants are important to us, and we take a number of steps to make sure answers remain confidential, even after the study has been completed. First, other than the service member’s spouse, only a select number of people at RAND who were working on this study know whether an individual agreed or refused to participate in the study. RAND uses the information participants provide for research purposes only, and does not disclose the identity of the participants or information that identifies the participants to anyone outside of the project team. Second, all the information we collect is coded by number, not by name. We do need the participant’s name and contact information so we can reach participants but this information is always kept separate from survey responses. Third, in our reports we only show the responses of the group and do not report information from any individual alone. Finally, after the study (about a year after the final interview) the respondent names and other personal data are destroyed, another safeguard to ensure survey answers and names aren’t linked.

    We take protecting confidentiality very seriously and we have rigorous human subjects' protection oversight at RAND. RAND’s reputation is also at stake. If we violate our promise of confidentiality we violate the public trust and risk our ability to conduct research in the future.

    Finally, study participants are protected by a Certificate of Confidentiality issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. This Certificate protects the research team from being forced to release information that identifies our participants, even under a court order or subpoena. There are only two cases where we may report what we are told by participants to people outside of RAND. First, if we are told that a child or elderly person is being abused we have to report it, and second, if we are told that the participant intends to harm him or herself or someone else we are required to report this to a supervisor, who may decide to report it to the authorities. The Certificate of Confidentiality is not an endorsement of the project by the DHHS. You can read more about Certificates of Confidentiality at:

  • 6. Everyone is so busy, why did families agree to take part in this study?

    There are many reasons why we encouraged military families to participate in our study.

    First, every family has a unique experience and faces unique challenges. This was an opportunity to have their thoughts and opinions added to the collective voice, and the military was counting on us to describe their story accurately. No one knows better than these families about the impact of deployment on their lives.

    Second, the information we gathered will help us document the impact of deployment on families, as well as help us to identify what families are doing to cope successfully with the stresses of deployment.

    Third, in recognition of each family’s time and participation, families could be eligible to receive a $50 gift card for completing the baseline survey. The DoD prohibits us from compensating service members directly, but if families participate we were permitted to award a gift card to the household. Every time at least one adult in the household completed a follow-up survey we sent the household (c/o spouse) a $40 gift card. In addition, at the completion of the study we awarded a $100 bonus to households when at least one adult completed 10 or more of the possible 18 surveys (waves). We also awarded a $100 bonus to households when at least one adult completed each of the three final surveys. If the household had an eligible child who participated in the study the child received a $25 card at baseline and a $20 gift card with each follow-up wave. Finally, these "wave" gift cards were doubled in value for the last survey. Families with an eligible child could earn more than $750 over the course of the study.

  • 7. If a family didn’t have a computer could they still be in the study?

    It wasn’t necessary for families to own a computer in order to be in this study. Participants could log in using any computer that has web access, for example, one at the public library, using the ID and passcode we assigned to them. For anyone not comfortable using a computer or who just preferred to use the phone, we could also conduct the surveys by telephone.

  • 8. What if one adult in the family wanted to participant but the spouse didn’t?

    The study was designed to include both the service member and the spouse. Because we wanted to look at how deployment affects each adult in the household, both adults had to agree to participate in order for the family to be enrolled in the study. If a family had a child over age 11, we hoped to include the child’s viewpoint as well, but child participation was not necessary in order for the adults in the family to be in the survey.

  • 9. What if you asked questions that participants just didn’t want to answer?

    Study participants were free to refuse or skip any questions they didn’t want to answer. They could do this at any time for any reason, and without any penalty.

  • 10. What if a participant had technical difficulties with the online survey?

    We experienced very few technical difficulties with the survey but RAND’s West Coast office housed a technical support staff that could assist participants over the phone. Help could be reached at (877) 260-9246 from 9 — 5 Pacific Time. An East Coast project manager was also available by phone or email. Some of the reasons for getting blocked from the online survey included:

    • Trying to get into the survey before it had opened or after it has closed. Each survey was open for 2 months and we would alert the participant by email and letter when the next survey was about to open.
    • Firewalls, particularly on military computers, sometimes blocked access to outside links. Using another computer or another browser usually helped.
    • Using the wrong household ID and passcode.
    • If a participant forgot the household login ID or passcode they could send us an email at or contact our west coast technical assistance phone line and we would email it to them again. If they forgot their personal passcode they could click "reset" on the screen and have the opportunity to create a new personal passcode.
  • 11. What if a participant requested to quit the study, did someone start calling them all the time to get them to re-enroll?

    If we were unable to reach a participant for the follow-up interviews, we tried to contact these individuals by phone, email or letter, to give them the opportunity to continue in the study if they wished to do so. That said, if someone asked to be removed from the study we respected that decision. Participants occasionally requested to skip an individual survey and would agree that we would reach out to them again, when the next survey was ready. Very few participants dropped out of the study altogether (study refusals) but if they requested to do so we would no longer contact them by email, phone or letter. Individuals who refused were always welcome to rejoin the study if they chose to do so.

  • 12. Who can I contact now with questions about the study?

    If you have any questions about the study, please contact one of us at the following addresses:

    Sarah O Meadows
    RAND Corporation
    1776 Main Street
    Santa Monica, CA 90407
    Benjamin Karney
    RAND Corporation
    1776 Main Street
    Santa Monica, CA 90407
    Terri Tanielian
    RAND Corporation
    1200 South Hayes Street
    Arlington, VA 22202-5050

    You can also reach us by phone at our Virginia (D.C.) office at 1 (703) 413-1100 or by email at

    If you have any questions or concerns about your rights as a research subject, you may also contact the Human Subjects Protection Committee at RAND, 1776 Main Street, P.O. Box 2138, Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138, 310-393-0411, ext. 6369.