Family Functioning Differences Across the Deployment Cycle in British Army Families: The Perceptions of Wives and Children

September, 2017

This paper investigates the ways in which military deployment can have an adverse effect on a family.


Military deployment can have an adverse effect on a soldier's family, though little research has looked at these effects in a British sample. We investigated wives' of U.K.-serving soldiers perceptions of marital and family functioning, across three stages of the deployment cycle: currently deployed, postdeployment and predeployed, plus a nonmilitary comparison group. Uniquely, young (aged 3.5–11 years) children's perceptions of their family were also investigated, using the parent–child alliance (PCA) coding scheme of drawings of the family. Two hundred and twenty British military families of regular service personnel from the British Army's Royal Armoured Corps, were sent survey packs distributed with a monthly welfare office newsletter. Wives were asked to complete a series of self-report items, and the youngest child in the family between the ages of 3.5 and 11 years was asked to draw a picture of their family. Complete data were available for 78 military families, and an additional 34 nonmilitary families were recruited via opportunity sampling. Results indicated wives of currently deployed and recently returned personnel were less satisfied with their family and its communication, and children's pictures indicated higher levels of dysfunctional parent–child alliance, whereas predeployed families responded similarly to nonmilitary families. Marital satisfaction was similar across all groups except predeployed families who were significantly more satisfied. Nonmilitary and predeployed families showed balanced family functioning, and currently and recently deployed families demonstrated poor family functioning. In comparison to nonmilitary families, predeployed families showed a large “spike” in the rigidity subscale of the Family Adaptability and Cohesion Evaluation Scale IV. Wives' perceptions of family functioning, but not marital satisfaction, differed between the deployment groups. The results from the coded children's drawings correlated with the self-report measures from the wife/mother, indicating that children's drawings could be a useful approach when working with younger children in this area. It is tentatively suggested that the differences across deployment stage on family functioning could be mediated not only by communication difficulties between deployed personnel and their families, but also by its effect on the children in the family. Larger-scale longitudinal research is needed to investigate this further.

Full Reference

Pye RE, Simpson LK. Family Functioning Differences Across the Deployment Cycle in British Army Families: The Perceptions of Wives and Children. Military Medicine. 2017;182(9-10):e1856-e63.

Report a problem with this article