This article explores the little-researched area of veterans returning to live with their parents for a duration of time on leaving the military. The research this article discusses considers how the parent-child relationship can be of help and hindrance following transition from the military.
When military service members separate from the military, many return to their families of origin, living with their parents for a period of several weeks to years. While research with veterans and their spouses has documented the particular strain of this reintegration period on veterans and their partners, little research to date has examined veterans’ experiences living with their parents. The present study sought to fill this research gap by investigating veterans’ experiences living with their parents using qualitative, in-depth interviews with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in California. Overall, veterans appreciated the instrumental and emotional support their parents provided when they separated. However, in some cases, living with parents also produced conflict and strain. In situations where adult veteran children had difficulty with the transition to civilian life or returned with mental health problems, parents were often the first to identify these problems and to support their children in accessing appropriate care. We analyze these findings in light of family systems theory, identifying ways in which adult veteran children continue a process of differentiation while living with their parents and maintaining emotional connectedness. We suggest ways that clinicians can better support veterans and their parents through the reintegration period and recommend that programming for military families explicitly include parents of service members in addition to conjugal families.
Worthen, M., Moos, R. and Ahern, J., 2012. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans’ Experiences Living with their Parents after Separation from the Military. Contemporary Family Theory, 34, pp. 362-375.