The Many Faces of Military Families: Unique Features of the Lives of Female Service Members


This article examines the issues facing female-serving military families and how these differ from their male counterparts.


Female service members' family structures differ from the traditional male service member-female spouse composition of military families. Consequently, this mixed-methods study reviewed demographic data, empirical evidence, and presented findings from secondary analyses of the 2010 wave of the Military Family Life Project regarding structural differences in male and female service members' families and perceptions and experiences of military spouses. In addition, to gain an understanding of the influence of women's service on their family functioning, we conducted in-depth telephone interviews with 20 civilian husbands residing in 11 states around the United States. Empirical evidence suggests service women had higher rates or remarriage and divorce than service men. Women were also more likely than men to be part of nontraditional family forms. Civilian husbands of female service members, however, reported lower marital satisfaction, less support from the community, and less satisfaction with the military lifestyle than military wives. Husbands' accounts indicated that their families experienced both benefits and challenges from wives' service. Integration in the military community and separation presented major challenges for women's families. Implications of benefits and challenges of women's service for their families are discussed.

Full Reference

Kenona H. Southwell, Shelley M. MacDermid Wadsworth, 2016, MILITARY MEDICINE, The Many Faces of Military Families: Unique Features of the Lives of Female Service Members, 181, 1, 70-79