By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD
Recently, two researchers from Virginia Tech  examined factors related to reintegration stress from the perspective of military members and military service member partners. The findings of the study offer insight into how partners may view military members’ mental health and PTSD symptoms, and how these symptoms impact reintegration after deployment.
Participants in the study totaled 675 and included 380 service members and 295 partners of service members. All participants were the parent of at least one minor child, and all service members had experienced one or more deployments. Participants and partners were asked if the service member had received a diagnosis of PTSD, and if they believed that the military member experienced symptoms of PTSD (regardless of diagnosis). The service members and the partners rated their perceptions of the military members’ mental health by responding to a survey rating the frequency of 5 emotional states including: nervous, calm, downhearted, happy, and discouraged. Reintegration stress was determined using a measure designed specifically for this study, with survey questions tailored to military members and partners. It is notable that the partners were not necessarily those of the military service members in the study, so data analyses were not from family dyads and were not linked.
The results of the study indicated that the presence of PTSD symptoms, self-reported mental health, and the mental health of the military member as reported by the partner all affected the level of reintegration stress in military families. Military members and partners both rated their mental health symptoms, as well as those of their partner, as high. Partners’ perceptions of PTSD-related symptoms in military service members was a big contributor to reintegration stress. Partners also reported that the military member’s symptoms affected daily life more than the military member did. Interestingly, having an actual diagnosis of PTSD was not significantly related to reintegration stress in this study.
When working with military service members who have experienced deployment and their partners, it is important to consider individual perceptions and take that into account when treating couples or families. In some instances, partners may be more acutely aware of PTSD symptoms, and their impact, than the service members themselves.
 Marek, L. I., & D’Aniello, C. (2014). Reintegration stress and family mental health: Implications for therapists working with reintegrating military families. Contemporary Family Therapy, 36(4), 443-451. doi:10.1007/s10591-014-9316-4
This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.