Pre-deployment Well-Being Among Single and Partnered National Guard Soldiers: The Role of Their Parents, Social Support, and Stressors

  • Melissa A. Polusny
  • Christopher R. Erbes
  • Emily Hagel Campbell
  • Hannah Fairman
  • Mark Kramer
  • Alexandria K. Johnson
Part of the Risk and Resilience in Military and Veteran Families book series (RRMV)


Families are a key source of support for National Guard Soldiers, yet little is known about the influence of parents on Soldiers’ pre-deployment well-being. In this chapter, we examine the potential role family may play in the psychological well-being of National Guard Soldiers. We present initial findings from the Readiness and Resilience in National Guard Soldiers (RINGS-2) study—an ongoing, prospective investigation of 2,089 National Guard Soldiers and their families. Single versus partnered Soldiers were compared on measures of pre-deployment well-being (post-traumatic stress symptoms, depression symptoms, and alcohol misuse). Prior to deployment, partnered Soldiers had higher PTSD and depression symptoms than single Soldiers, while single Soldiers reported greater alcohol misuse than partnered Soldiers. Multiple linear regression analyses examined the role of family contextual factors in understanding Soldiers’ pre-deployment well-being. Findings demonstrated the important role families can play in Soldiers’ well-being prior to deployment, both as a source of support and strain.


National guard/reserve component Psychological well-being Adult child-parent relationships 



This research was supported by a Service Directed Research (SDR) grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Services Research & Development (SDR #398). This material is the result of work supported with resources and the use of facilities at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Minneapolis, MN. The authors would like to acknowledge Lieutenant Colonel Barbara O’Reilly, Major Aaron Krenz, and the Minnesota Army National Guard for their ongoing support of the Readiness and Resilience in National Guard Soldiers (RINGS) Project.


  1. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  2. Andres, M. D., & Moelker, R. (2009). Parent’s voice. The intergenerational relationship, worry, appraisal of the deployment, and support among parents of deployed personnel. In G. Caforio (Ed.), Military sociology. Essays in honor of Charles C Moskos (Vol. 2, pp. 119–145). Bingley: Emerald.Google Scholar
  3. Arbisi, P., Kaler, M. E., Kehle, S., Erbes, C., Polusny, M. A., & Thuras, P. (2012). The predictive validity of the PTSD Checklist in a non-clinical sample of combat exposed National Guard troops. Psychological Assessment, 24(4), 1034–1040.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blanchard, E. B., Jones-Alexander, J., Buckley, T. C., & Forneris, C. A. (1996). Psychometric properties of the PTSD Checklist (PCL). Behaviour Research and Therapy, 34, 669–673.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bush, K., Kivlahan, D. R., McDonell, M. B., Fihn, S. D., & Bradley, K. A. (1998). The AUDIT alcohol consumption questions (AUDIT-C): An effective brief screening test for problem drinking. Archives of Internal Medicine, 158, 1789–1795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cohen, S., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 310–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Conger, R. D., & Conger, K. J. (2002). Resilience in Midwestern families: Selected findings from the first decade of a prospective, longitudinal study. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 361–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cozza, S. J., Chun, R. S., & Polo, J. A. (2005). Military families and children during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Psychiatric Quarterly, 76, 371–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Crow, J. R., & Myers-Bowman, K. S. (2011). “A fear like I’ve never felt”: Experiences of parents whose adult children deployed to combat zones. Marriage & Family Review, 47, 164–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Erbes, C. R. (2011). Couple functioning and PTSD in returning OIF soldiers: Preliminary findings from the Readiness and Resilience in National Guard Soldiers project. In S. M. Wadsworth & D. Riggs (Eds.), Risk and resilience in U.S. military families (pp. 47–67). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Erbes, C. R., Meis, L. A., Polusny, M. A., & Compton, J. S. (2011). Couple adjustment and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in National Guard veterans of the Iraq war. Journal of Family Psychology, 25, 479–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fingerman, K. L., Cheng, Y., Tighe, L., Birditt, K. S., & Zarit, S. (2012). Relationships between young adults and their parents. In A. Booth, S. L. Brown, N. S. Landale, W. D. Manning, & S. M. McHale (Eds.), Early adulthood in a family context (pp. 59–85). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  13. Fingerman, K. L., Cheng, Y., Wesselmann, E. D., Zarit, S., Furstenberg, F., & Birditt, K. S. (2012). Helicopter parents and landing pad kids: Intense parental support of grown children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 880–896.Google Scholar
  14. Fingerman, K., Miller, L., Birditt, K., & Zarit, S. (2009). Giving to the good and the needy: Parental support of grown children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71, 1220–1233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gewirtz, A. H., Polusny, M. A., DeGarmo, D. S., Khaylis, A., & Erbes, C. R. (2010). Posttraumatic stress symptoms among National Guard soldiers deployed to Iraq: Associations with parenting behaviors and couple adjustment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78, 599–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gove, W. R., Hughes, M., & Style, C. B. (1983). Does marriage have positive effects on the psychological well-being of the individual? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24, 122–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Greenwell, L., & Bengtson, V. L. (1997). Geographic distance and contact between middle-aged children and their parents: The effects of social class over 20 years. Journal of Gerontology B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 52, S13–S26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Griffith, J. (2010). Citizens coping as soldiers: A review of deployment stress symptoms among reservists. Military Psychology, 22, 176–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hay, E. L., Fingerman, K. L., & Lefkowitz, E. S. (2008). The worries adult children and their parents experience for one another. The International Journal of Aging & Human Development, 67, 101–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hobfoll, S. E. (1989). Conservation of resources. A new attempt at conceptualizing stress. American Psychologist, 44, 513–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hobfoll, S. E. (2002). Social and psychological resources and adaptation. Review of General Psychology, 6, 307–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hoge, C. W., Castro, C. A., Messer, S. C., McGurk, D., Cotting, D. I., & Koffman, R. L. (2004). Combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, mental health problems, and barriers to care. New England Journal of Medicine, 351, 13–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Horwitz, A. V., White, H. R., & Howell-White, S. (1996). Becoming married and mental health: A longitudinal study of a cohort of young adults. Journal of Marriage and Family, 58, 895–907.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hughes, M., & Gove, W. R. (1981). Living alone, social integration, and mental health. American Journal of Sociology, 87, 48–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Iversen, A. C., Fear, N. T., Ehlers, A., Hacker, H. J., Hull, L., Earnshaw, M., et al. (2008). Risk factors for post-traumatic stress disorder among UK Armed Forces personnel. Psychological Medicine, 38, 511–522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kim, H. K., & McKenry, P. C. (2002). The relationship between marriage and psychological well-being: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Family Issues, 23, 885–911.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. King, D. W., King, L. A., & Vogt, D. S. (2003). Manual for the Deployment Risk and Resilience Inventory (DRRI): A collection of measures for studying deployment-related experiences of military veterans. Boston, MA: National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.Google Scholar
  28. Kroenke, K., Spitzer, R. L., & Williams, J. B. (2001). The PHQ-9: Validity of a brief depression severity measure. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 16, 606–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kroenke, K., Strine, T. W., Spitzer, R. L., Williams, J. B., Berry, J. T., & Mokdad, A. H. (2009). The PHQ-8 as a measure of current depression in the general population. Journal of Affective Disorders, 114, 163–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lapierre, C. B., Schwegler, A. F., & LaBauve, B. J. (2007). Posttraumatic stress and depression symptoms in soldiers returning from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 20, 933–943.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Leonard, K. E., & Rothbard, J. C. (1999). Alcohol and the marriage effect. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 13, 139–146.Google Scholar
  32. MacDermid, S. M. (2010). Family risk and resilience in the context of war and terrorism. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 537–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. MacDermid, S., & Riggs, D. S. (2011). Risk and resilience in U.S. military families. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  34. McCarroll, J. E., Hoffman, K. J., Grieger, T. A., & Holloway, H. C. (2005). Psychological aspects of deployment and reunion. In P. W. Kelley (Ed.), Military preventive medicine: Mobilization and deployment (pp. 1395–1424). Falls Church, VA: Surgeon General of the Army.Google Scholar
  35. Meis, L. A., Barry, R. A., Erbes, C. R., Kehle, S. M., & Polusny, M. A. (2010). Relationship adjustment, PTSD symptoms, and treatment utilization among coupled National Guard solliders deployed to Iraq. Journal of Family Psychology, 24, 560–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Musick, K., & Bumpass, L. L. (2011). Re-examining the case for marriage: Union formation and changes in well-being (California Center for Population Research On-Line Working Paper Series, PWP-CCPR-2006-003). Los Angeles, CA: California Center for Population Research.Google Scholar
  37. Office of Army Demographics. (2010). FY10 Army profile. Washington, DC: Department of the Army.Google Scholar
  38. Orme, G. J., & Kehoe, E. J. (2011). Left behind but not left out? Perceptions of support for family members of deployed reservists. Australian Defence Force Journal, 185, 26–33.Google Scholar
  39. Peebles-Kleiger, M. J., & Kleiger, J. H. (1994). Re-integration stress for Desert Storm families: Wartime deployments and family trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 7, 173–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pitzer, L., Fingerman, K. L., & Lefkowitz, E. S. (2011). Development of the parent adult relationship questionnaire (PARQ). International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 72, 111–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Polusny, M. A., Erbes, C. R., Murdoch, M., Arbisi, P. A., Thuras, P., & Rath, M. B. (2011). Prospective risk factors for new-onset post-traumatic stress disorder in National Guard soldiers deployed to Iraq. Psychological Medicine, 41, 687–698.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Reinert, D. F., & Allen, J. P. (2002). The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT): A review of recent research. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 26, 272–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Riviere, L. A., Kendall-Robbins, A., McGurk, D., Castro, C. A., & Hoge, C. W. (2011). Coming home may hurt: Risk factors for mental ill health in US reservists after deployment in Iraq. British Journal of Psychiatry, 198, 136–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sage, R. A., & Johnson, M. K. (2012). Extending and expanding parenthood: Parental support to young children. Sociology Compass, 6, 256–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Saunders, J. B., Aasland, O. G., Babor, T. F., de la Fuente, J. R., & Grant, M. (1993). Development of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT): WHO collaborative project on early detection of persons with harmful alcohol consumption–II. Addiction, 88, 791–804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Seal, K. H., Bertenthal, D., Miner, C. R., Sen, S., & Marmar, C. (2007). Bringing the war back home: Mental health disorders among 103,788 US veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan seen at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities. Archives of Internal Medicine, 167, 476–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sherbourne, C. D., & Stewart, A. L. (1991). The MOS social support survey. Social Science and Medicine, 32, 705–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. VA Office of Public Health. (2011). Analysis of VA health care utilization among Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and Operation New Dawn (OND) Veterans. Arlington, VA: Department of Veterans Affairs.Google Scholar
  49. Vogt, D. S., Proctor, S. P., King, D. W., King, L. A., & Vasterling, J. J. (2008). Validation of scales from the deployment risk and resilience inventory in a sample of Operation Iraqi Freedom Veterans. Assessment, 15, 391–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Vogt, D. S., Samper, R. E., King, D. W., King, L. A., & Martin, J. A. (2008). Deployment stressors and posttraumatic stress symptomatology: Comparing active duty and National Guard/Reserve personnel from Gulf War I. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 21, 66–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Weathers, F. W., Litz, B. T., Herman, D. S., Huska, J. A., & Keane, T. M. (1993). The PTSD Checklist (PCL): Reliability, validity, and diagnostic utility. In F. W. Weathers, B. T. Litz, D. S. Herman, J. A. Huska, & T. M. Keane (Eds.), Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. San Antonio, TX.Google Scholar
  52. Wiens, T. W., & Boss, P. (2006). Maintaining family resiliency before, during, and after military separation. In C. A. Castro, A. B. Adler, & T. W. Britt (Eds.), Military life: The psychology of serving in peace and combat (pp. 13–38). Westport, CT: Praeger Security International.Google Scholar
  53. Worthen, M., Moos, R., & Ahern, J. (2012). Iraq and Afghanistan veterans’ experiences living with their parents after separation from the military. Contemporary Family Therapy, 34, 362–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa A. Polusny
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Christopher R. Erbes
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Emily Hagel Campbell
    • 2
  • Hannah Fairman
    • 2
  • Mark Kramer
    • 2
  • Alexandria K. Johnson
    • 2
  1. 1.Minneapolis VA Health Care SystemMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes ResearchMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.University of Minnesota Medical School, MinneapolisMinneapolisUSA

Personalised recommendations