It’s a common misconception that military families have significantly more failed marriages than civilian couples – and that families in which one or both spouses are deployed have shorter marriages and high divorce rates. This myth was dispelled once again by a new study conducted by social psychologists at the University of California – Los Angeles.
According to the new divorce study, which was recently published online by the Journal of Family Issues, military personnel affected by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan were no more or less likely to divorce than civilians not affected by the wars. To reach this conclusion, researchers looked at U.S. Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System records and Current Populations Surveys for the three years before the current overseas conflicts began and for the three years after they had started.
The study, which corrected for discrepancies in race, age, employment, and education, found that although military families do face a number of unique and difficult challenges, such as long, multiple deployments and frequent moves, their marriages are just as strong as others.
Researchers can’t be sure why divorce rates are the same for both groups but shared possibilities. It could be that the marital benefits granted to soldiers – including housing help, bonuses, health coverage, and off-base housing – could encourage military families to stay together or to get married initially. The same challenges that break some marriages could also make others stronger.
The new study also found that military divorce rates decreased as military personnel became older.