INFLUENCE OF MILITARY AND FAMILY LIFE STRESSORS ON THE SATISFACTION OF MALE AND FEMALE SERVICE MEMBERS
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Retaining qualified men and women is the backbone of total force readiness. Studies have found that family factors, such as the quality of military marriages, have potential implications for service member’s retention and deployment readiness. Most of what we know about deployment stressors, mental health outcomes, and military families comes from studies conducted either exclusively or predominately in samples of male service members. Recognizing that the overall military experience of service women is unlike that of men; and the stressors experienced by service women can affect their satisfaction with the military. Factors influencing the readiness and retention of the increasing number of female service members in the U.S. military are important to understand. The dynamics associated with balancing scheduled and unscheduled military work requirements, as well as supporting family needs, are often made more challenging for female service members. Few studies have examined the effects of military satisfaction specifically among female service members and their male spouses. Service members and their spouses enrolled in the Millennium Cohort Study and Millennium Cohort Family Study (Family Study), respectively, were included in this study (N=9,872) to investigate the relationship of military and family stressors on military satisfaction for a large cohort of service members and their spouses, and how the relationships may differ by gender. Guided by the framework of family stress theory (ABC-X), this study extends our understanding of the extent to which military (type of deployment, time away from family, number of deployments, spouse military experience) and family stressors (spouse employment, number of children under 18, work-family conflict, and spouse/service member mental health) are related to service members’ military satisfaction, and the extent to which informal social support moderates the effects of those stressors on military satisfaction. Findings suggest that service members reported higher satisfaction with the military when the service member experienced more deployments and better mental health. Lower satisfaction with the military was associated with service members for whom the non-military spouse reported conflict between the requirements of the military and the requirements of family. Gender differences and moderations from social support were also observed.