Patterns of Strengths in U.S. Military Couples

  • Jacqueline C. PfliegerEmail author
  • Ben Porter
  • Carlos E. Carballo
  • Valerie A. Stander
  • Nida H. Corry
  • for the Millennium Cohort Family Study Team
Original Paper



The aim of the current study was to examine patterns of strengths among a large sample of military couples. Family resilience theory was utilized to operationalize strengths in couples, including individual beliefs represented by self-mastery, positive outlook, and spirituality; organizational patterns represented by social support; and family communication.


We used data from the Millennium Cohort Family Study; the current study was composed of 9642 married military dyads representing all service branches and components.


Using latent profile analysis, results supported five patterns of strengths in couples. Over half (58.4%) of the couples exhibited a pattern indicative of high strengths for both members of the couple, about a third (33.6%) of couples exhibited two patterns in which one member of the couple was higher on strengths than the other member, and a small proportion (5.1%) of couples exhibited a pattern of low strengths where both members of the couple were low on all indicators. The least common pattern (2.9%) was of moderately high beliefs and social support, yet very low family communication. Sociodemographic and military correlates that most consistently distinguished high strengths in couples from other patterns were higher spouse education level and service member officer rank. Service members and spouses with poorer mental health, marital quality, and overall military satisfaction were more likely to exhibit patterns indicative of low strengths.


Overall, most military couples exhibited high strengths early in the military career cycle. Future longitudinal research is needed to examine how military experiences impact patterns of strengths and adjustment in couples over time.


U.S. military couples Family resilience theory Psychological health Marital quality Military satisfaction Latent profile analysis 



The authors express gratitude to the other contributing members of the Millennium Cohort Family Study team from the Naval Health Research Center, including Lauren Bauer, Alex Esquivel, Hope McMaster, Sabrina Richardson, Evelyn Sun, Lexi Takata, and Kelly Woodall. The authors also gratefully acknowledge Christianna Williams from Abt Associates; Ernestine Briggs-King, John Fairbank, Ellen Gerrity, Robert Lee, and Robert Murphy from the Center for Child and Family Health; and contributions of the Millennium Cohort Study team. In addition, the authors want to express their gratitude to the Family Study participants without whom this study would not be possible.


This study was funded by the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery under work unit no. 60002.

Author Contributions

J.P.: designed and executed the study, assisted with interpreting the results, and led the writing and revisions of the manuscript. B.P.: analyzed the data, assisted with writing the method and results sections, and reviewed the final manuscript. C.C.: conducted literature reviews, assisted with analyzing the data, contributed to writing the manuscript, and reviewed the final manuscript. V.S.: collaborated in the study design, assisted with interpreting the results, and reviewed the final manuscript. N.C.: collaborated in the study design, assisted with interpreting the results, and reviewed the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Naval Health Research Center Institutional Review Board and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Military Population Health DirectorateNaval Health Research CenterSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Leidos, Inc.San DiegoUSA
  3. 3.Abt AssociatesDurhamUSA

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