Longer and more frequent combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan undermined marital satisfaction among U.S. troops leading to more divorce, according to what researchers say is the largest study done on broken marriages in the military.
Tracking the marital status of more than 460,000 U.S. service members between 1999 and 2008, researchers found that the specter of divorce increased with each passing month that a spouse was away at war.
"That result came out loud and clear," says Sebastian Negrusa, an economist who co-authored the RAND Corp. study published recently in Journal of Population Economics.
A key factor was how the surprise of unexpectedly long and arduous deployments left couples disillusioned about what they hoped their marriage would be. "Couples form expectations at the time of marriage," says Negrusa, who has since left RAND.
The study concluded that, "the length, conditions and risks of the deployment are sources of shocks to the value of military marriages."
This was particularly tough on military marriages formed prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks where data showed ultimately one in seven failed.
"Just as the attacks of 9/11 were not anticipated, the ensuing change in the type and number of post 9/11 deployments was a major unanticipated shock," the study says.
"Couples who married before 9/11 just didn't expect that deployments were going to be amped up," says RAND co-author James Hosek.
He and his co-authors found the divorce risk slightly lower among those troops who married after 9/11, with failure in about one in eight marriages.
As the war in Iraq grew more intense, deployments, particularly in the Army, grew longer and more frequent, with less time spent at home. The overall divorce rate in the military increased gradually from 2.6% of marriages in 2001 to 3.7% in 2011, according to Pentagon data. The rate dipped slightly last year.
The study reported that the longer the deployment — 12 months versus 18 months, for example — the greater the risk of divorce.
Researchers also found an increased risk of divorce where the deployment is more dangerous and where the married service member going off to war is a woman.
Female service members have a higher divorce rate than men even without the influence of combat deployment, researchers said.
But where a combat tour is a factor, the female service members faces 50% chance of seeing her marriage fail during the first five years, the study shows.
The study rebuts the findings from a 2007 RAND research paper which tracked military personnel between 2002 and 2005 and concluded that deployments actually make military marriages more resilient.
Article from: USA Today.com Military Intelligence by Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY 5:59 p.m. EDT September 3, 2013