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Recent demands on the military have raised concerns about the impact of extended deployments on military marriages. To evaluate this impact, the authors draw on marital status data in service personnel records to estimate trends in marriage and marital dissolution between 1996 and 2005 and the specific effects of time deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq on subsequent risk of ending a marriage. The results generally run counter to expectations. Although rates of marital dissolution have increased since 2001 for most services and components, they had declined in the five years prior to 2001. As a result, marital dissolution rates across the services and components are currently similar to those observed in 1996, when the demands on the military were measurably lower. In most cases, service members who were deployed had a lower risk of subsequently ending their marriages than service members who did not deploy or deployed fewer days.

The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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