DEVELOPING PATHWAYS TO SERVING TOGETHER: DUAL MILITARY COUPLES' LIFE COURSE AND DECISION-MAKING
Smith, David Glenn
Segal, Mady W
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The increase in the number and types of military families since the advent of the All-Volunteer Force in 1973 has increased the impact of the work-family interface for the military. For dual career couples, where both the husband and wife are in the military, both are subject to deployment for extended periods of time, high geographic mobility, probability of a foreign residence, the risk of injury or death, and they must manage two specialized and structured career paths (Segal 1986). The purpose of this study is to analyze the work careers and family life course of dual military couples and their decision-making processes, using a life course perspective. Using a grounded theory methodology, I interviewed and analyzed the transcripts of 23 dual military officer couples in the U.S. Navy. Results show that work and family decisions are influenced by the organizational constraints as well as institutional and cultural norms. The rhythm of life in the Navy is shaped by cyclic changing of job assignments and locations, rotation of sea and shore duty assignments, warfare specialty career paths designed for promotion, and the cultural fast track. These couples' experiences in trying to live together with collocated job assignments shape their long-term decision-making for maintaining a career in the Navy. Their experiences show that the organization's demands and far-reaching control are infused into every aspect of their lives. Couples' discourse is focused on their human agency in an effort to maintain control of their life course while meeting the organizational demands of rigid and structured career paths, increased number of sea duty tours and deployments, and perceived low priority of collocation in the assignment process. Dual career couples in this organization use a long-term perspective of the life course to cope with their current situation with the knowledge that their life satisfaction will improve in the near future as they progress in their career. These couples adapt by employing work-family prioritization strategies for achieving their personal and professional goals. Learning how to successfully combine and separate roles through these prioritization strategies reduces stress and increases life satisfaction.