Coming Home: A Prospective Study of Family Reintegration Following Deployment to a War Zone

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The consequences of deployment extend beyond the service member to impact the entire family. The current investigation evaluated the unique challenges of family reintegration for partnered service members using a prospective design. In total, 76 partnered service members who deployed on a year-long, high-risk mission to Iraq were assessed across the entirety of the deployment cycle, i.e., pre-, during, and postdeployment. At follow-up, nearly 1 in 5 partnered service members reported moderate to severe difficulties in multiple aspects of family reintegration. Prospective interpersonal indicators such as preparations for deployment as a couple, shared commitment to the military, and predeployment relationship distress predicted postdeployment family reintegration difficulties. Significant interpersonal risk factors were medium to large in their effect sizes. Airmen’s willingness to disclose deployment- and combat-related experiences, and postdeployment relationship distress served as concurrent interpersonal correlates of difficulties with family reintegration. Intrapersonal factors, including posttraumatic stress symptoms and alcohol misuse were concurrently related to challenges with family reintegration; predeployment alcohol misuse also predicted subsequent family reintegration difficulties. Additional analyses indicated that pre- and postdeployment relationship distress, combat disclosure, and postdeployment alcohol misuse each contributed to family reintegration when controlling for other intra- and interpersonal risk factors. Implications for prevention and early intervention strategies as well as future research are discussed.



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