Mixed-method Approach to Understanding the Experiences of Non-Deployed Military Caregivers

Published in: Maternal and Child Health Journal, v. 16, no. 2, Feb. 2012, p. 374-384

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2011

by Sandraluz Lara-Cinisomo, Anita Chandra, Rachel M. Burns, Lisa H. Jaycox, Terri Tanielian, Teague Ruder, Bing Han

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Given the unprecedented operational tempo of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and the heavy involvement of the Reserve and National Guard, the stress that military families are exposed to is distinct from stress in earlier conflicts, with little empirical data to inform the impact on non-deployed military caregivers or "home caregivers." The study seeks to examine the experiences of home caregivers during deployments, with a focus on the impact of deployment on the caregiver's well-being. We conducted 50 qualitative interviews and 1,337 survey interviews with home caregivers who experienced at least one deployment. The structured qualitative interview focused on caregiver experiences during deployment. The quantitative data centered on caregiver well-being and household and relationship hassles. The qualitative interview notes were the unit of analysis and traditional methods were used to analyze the data. The quantitative data were analyzed using regression models. The qualitative data revealed key deployment-related household challenges that caregivers experience and the effect of those challenges on caregivers. Multivariate analyses of the quantitative data explored differences in caregivers' emotional well-being, household and relationship hassles. The results showed important component and deployment experience differences. Caregivers affiliated with the National Guard and those with more months of deployment reported significantly poorer emotional well-being, and more household and relationship hassles. Given the important role that maternal well-being has on child and family functioning, it is critical to understand how the stress of deployment is affecting mothers in their daily routines, especially during potentially high stress periods.

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