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Research Questions

  1. How could researchers design a study that could answer the following questions: How are deployments associated with family well-being and overall functioning? What family- and individual-level factors can account for both positive and negative adaptation to deployment? And what policies and programs can the U.S. Department of Defense develop to help families navigate the stress associated with deployment?
  2. What are the characteristics of the participating military families?
  3. How does and will the study collect data?

In the past decade, U.S. military families have experienced extreme stress, as U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines have experienced extended and repeated deployments. As a result, U.S. policymakers and Department of Defense leadership have placed an emphasis on family readiness for deployment and other military-related stressors. However, family readiness is not a well-understood construct. The Deployment Life Study was designed to provide a deeper understanding of family readiness and to address the sources of readiness among military families. It is a longitudinal study of military families over the course of a full deployment cycle — predeployment, during deployment, and postdeployment. Over the course of three years, the study will follow 2,724 families from each service and component, interviewing service members, their spouses, and one child between the ages of 11 and 17 in each family (if applicable) every four months. Baseline data are weighted to be representative of married service members who were eligible to deploy sometime between June 1, 2012, and December 31, 2012. This report describes the Deployment Life Study theoretical model; the content of the baseline assessment; the design and procedures associated with data collection, sampling and recruiting procedures; and the baseline sample of military families.

Key Findings

To Understand How Families Experience Deployments, the Deployment Life Study Focuses on Four Areas: Preexisting Conditions, Deployment Experiences, Intermediate Outcomes, and Long-Term Outcomes

  • Preexisting conditions include enduring traits, relationship resources, nonmilitary circumstances, and prior military experiences.
  • Deployment experiences consist of deployment characteristics and adaptive processes.
  • Intermediate outcomes measured are emergent traits and relationship quality.
  • Long-term outcomes measured are marital dissolution, military retention, child academic achievement, financial well-being, physical health, and mental, emotional, and behavioral health.

Nine Times in Three Years, the Deployment Life Study Assesses the Service Member, His or Her Spouse, and, If Possible, One Child in the Household

  • Initial, baseline assessment began in March 2011 and ended in August 2012.
  • Follow-up assessments continue at four-month intervals for each participant.
  • Interviewers use phone and web survey methods.

The research described in this report was prepared for the United States Army and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The research was conducted jointly within the RAND Arroyo Center and the RAND National Defense Research Institute.

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