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August 5, 2011

The ravages of war often stay with soldiers who return from combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Guard and Reserve soldiers return from battle directly into their civilian communities.  Now their spouses are on the frontline.  Researchers to date have largely ignored these spouses.  New research focuses on the post-deployment experience of this neglected population.  Support for military families is a timely topic and deserves nationwide attention.

 Returning Guard and Reserve soldiers return from combat and go directly into civilian communities.  Their homes and families are off military bases – often great distances from existing post-combat support systems.  Their spouses are thrust into caring for and coping with someone who may have been profoundly affected by combat.  Recent studies indicate that Guard and Reserve soldiers experience higher rates of PTSD and suicide than active duty soldiers1, 2, 3.  How are spouses coping with this?  How is it affecting their marriage?  Is there volatile behavior in the home?  Are spouses experiencing any behavioral health issues?  Where do spouses turn for help?  Is military family support helpful?  Is support from family or friends helpful?  These are important questions, which this research study seeks to answer.

A nationwide study is being conducted at the University of Hawaii and it focuses on marital distress and behavioral health issues of Army National Guard and US Army Reserve spouses.  Numerous studies have researched the adverse impact military combat has on the behavioral health problems of military combat soldiers.  However, little research has examined the level of post-deployment marital distress and related behavioral health issues affecting the spouses.  Research is especially lacking for spouses of Army National Guard and Reserve soldiers.

Recruitment is underway for this study nationwide.  The study is set-up as an online survey and the link to the survey is on this site (see green button above-right).  The participant’s identity is not collected or required and all data received is anonymous.

Why does this study focus on Army Guard and Reserve families?

Since the 1990′s, the Reserve Component has been viewed and used as an operationa­l reserve rather than a strategic reserve force4, 5.  This shift in perspectiv­e has greatly increased the use of the Reserve Components overseas since the Global War on Terror began in 20014, 5.  From Sept 2001 – Nov 2007 OEF/OIF deployment included 254,894 National Guard and 202,113 Reserves6.  Additional­ly, during the first Gulf War, 18% of Reserve Components were deployed, whereas more than 40% of Reserve Components have been deployed to either Iraq or Afghanista­n7.  These figures do not include deployment­s from 2008-2011.

There are similariti­es between the Guard and Reserve families that differ from the Army’s Active Component.  Fifty-six percent of active duty soldiers and their families live on or near their base, whereas no Guard/Rese­rve soldiers and their families live on base.  Additional­ly, 48% of Guard and 50% of Reserve live more than 30 minutes from the nearest military installati­on and about 27% of Guard and Reserve live more than one-hour away8.  The distance from base may create problems with access to military resources for the soldiers and their families.

Another important difference between Reserve and Active Component spouses is in their understand­ing of the possibilit­y of their husband’s deployment­.  In a survey of spouses in 2000, only 35% of Guard and 28% of Reserve spouses thought it would be likely or very likely that their husbands would deploy during the next five years8.  Between 46% to 69% of Guard & Reserve spouses were unprepared when their husbands were called to deploy in ’01 & ’028.  Furthermor­e, 60% of Reserve families were given only a 2-week notice at the time to prepare emotionall­y & administra­tively (preparing wills, power of attorney, & other necessary financial and legal documentat­ion) for deployment8.

These are only a few of the difference­s between the Reserve and Active Component families that give good cause to understand the challenges faced by the Reserve Component spouses during the post-deplo­yment period.  Nevertheless, studies of active duty spouses are greatly needed as well and it is hoped that the findings of this current study will help to further research for all military spouses.

This study intends to gain understanding of the many challenges faced by spouses of Army National Guard and Reserve soldiers who have returned from OEF/OIF deployment.  This includes marital relationship and behavioral health issues (such as depression).  In addition, we want to understand how well community and military family support services are helping spouses with post-deployment needs.

Information from this study will be used to inform the public and policy makers about the challenges faced by spouses of Guard and Reserve soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan military combat deployment.  Additionally, information from the study will inform the public and policy makers about the community and military family support service needs of this population.  The results of the study will be widely distributed to have maximum benefits for families and those who provide services to families.

Who should participate?

 If you are a civilian spouse (or unmarried couple but living together) of an Army National Guard or Reserve soldier who has returned from OEF/OIF deployment, your participation is very important.  You will have the opportunity to have your personal situation heard and understood.  By participating, you will help get information to the public about the challenges faced by Guard and Reserve spouses, which could lead to improved and/or new services to Guard and Reserve families.  We anticipate that some spouses and their marriages are doing well and some are not.  In order to understand the differences in these spouses and their marriages, it works best to compare and contrast the different situations, so we encourage spouses who are doing well to participate in the survey as well as those who feel they are not doing well.

As mentioned above, the study is being conducted as an online survey and the link to the survey is the green button above-right.  The survey is anonymous.  It takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes to complete.  There are a number of questions regarding your background, your emotional well-being, your marital relationship, and support received from family, friends, and military family support services.  At the end of the survey, there are open-ended questions available for you to state anything you feel is important to understand about your situation that was not covered by the questions.

Cynthia J’Anthony is the principle investigator for this study.  She is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Hawaii’s Department of Psychology.  Send questions regarding this research to


  1. Orrell, J. (February 2011).  Carpenter: Reducing suicide rate among Army National Guard’s highest priorities.  National Guard News.  Retrieved on 4/29/2011 from
  2. Jaffe, G. (January 2011).  Army sees suicide decline overall, increase among Guard and Reserve soldiers.  The Washington Post.  Retrieved on 4/29/2011 from
  3. Thomas, J., Wilk, J., Riviere, L., McGurk, D., Castro, C., & Hoge, C. (2010).  Prevalence of mental health problems and functional impairment among Active Component and National Guard soldiers 3 and 12 months following combat in Iraq [Electronic Version].  Archives of General Psychiatry, 67.  614-623.

4.      Gelinas, D. (2008, April). The Challenges of an Operationalized National Guard and a Militia Alternative. Paper submitted to the Faculty of the Joint Advanced Warfighting School in partial satisfaction of the requirements of a Master of Science Degree in Joint Campaing Planning and Strategy, Norfolk, VA.  Retreived May 16, 2010, from A792784.html

5.      Army National Guard. (2006). National Guard Fact Sheet Army National Guard (FY2005). Retreived May 15, 2010, from http:/

6.      Waterhouse, M. & O’Bryant, J. (2008). National Guard personnel and deployments: Fact sheet.  CRS Report for Congress (Order Code RS22451).  Retrieved online May 15, 2010 from .

7.      Vogt, D., Samper, R., King, L. Martin, J. (2008).  Deployment stressors and posttraumatic stress symptomatology: Comparing active duty and National Guard/Reserve personnel from Gulf War I [Electronic version].  Journal of Traumatic Stress, 21, 66-74.

  1. Booth, B., Segal, M., & Bell, D. (with Martin, J., Ender, M., Rohall, D., Nelson, J.). (2007). What We Know About Army Families: 2007 Update.  Retrieved May 26, 2010 from 2007.pdf
One Comment leave one →
  1. Diana Hume permalink
    May 29, 2011 7:41 pm

    This topic is all to close to me and I know I am not alone. We are there for each other, we just don’t have connection, after all we are reserve families and spouses. I am a blogger for the Army Wounded Warrior Command. Please Google Diana Hume AW2 Blog. Post any comments we need OUR voice to be heard!

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