Single Military Mothers in the New Millennium: Stresses, Supports, and Effects of Deployment

  • Michelle L. Kelley
  • Ashley N. Doane
  • Matthew R. Pearson


The present study examined Navy mothers’ reports about their own and their children’s psychological symptoms. Navy mothers (n = 154) were divided into a deployment group (n = 71, defined as facing a military-induced separation within the next 60 days) and a nondeploying control group (n = 83) who were not expecting deployment in the next year and a nondeploying control group. They were assessed twice (prior to and after deployment and at similar times for the nondeploying group). A path analytic model was tested separately for single and married Navy mothers. For both single and married Navy mothers, maternal psychosocial adjustment at the initial assessment was associated with maternal adjustment at the final assessment. In addition, children’s emotional and behavioral functioning at the initial assessment predicted children’s adjustment at the final assessment. For single Navy mothers, experiencing more psychological symptomatology predicted children’s internalizing and externalizing behavior at the final assessment; however, this relationship was not present for married Navy mothers and their children.


Single Mother Psychological Adjustment Service Member Perceive Stress Scale Military Family 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Achenbach, T. M. (1991). Manual for the Child Behavior Checklist 4-18 and revised 1991 profile. Burlington, VT: Department of Psychiatry, University of Vermont.Google Scholar
  2. Achenbach, T. M. (1992). Manual for the Child Behavior Checklist/2-3 and 1992 profile. Burlington, VT: Department of Psychiatry, University of Vermont.Google Scholar
  3. Achenbach, T. M., Edelbrock, C., & Howell, C. T. (1987). Empirically based assessment of the behavioral/emotional problems of 2- and 3-year-old children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 15, 629–650.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Adams, G. A., Durand, D. B., Burrell, L., Teitelbaum, J. M., Pehrson, K. L., & Hawkins, J. P. (2005). Direct and indirect effects of operations tempo on outcomes for soldiers and spouses. Military Psychology, 17, 229–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Adler, A. B., Huffman, A. H., Bliese, P. D., & Castro, C. A. (2005). The impact of deployment length and experience on the well-being of male and female soldiers. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10, 121–137.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Adler-Baeder, A. B., Pittman, F., & Taylor, L. (2006). The prevalence of marital transitions in military families. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 44, 91–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Military Deployment Services for Youth, Families and Service Members. (2007). The psychological needs of U.S. Military service members and their families: A preliminary report. Retrieved March 13, 2009, from
  8. Angrist, J. D., & Johnson, J. H., IV. (2000). Effects of work-related absences on families: Evidence from the Gulf War. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 54, 41–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Biddle, B. J. (1986). Recent developments in role theory. Annual Review of Sociology, 12, 67–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bramsen, I., van der Ploeg, H. M., & Twisk, J. W. R. (2002). Secondary traumatization in Dutch couples of World War II survivors. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70, 241–245.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Broderick, C. B. (1993). Understanding family process: Basics of family systems theory. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  12. Bureau of Naval Personnel. (2009). Facts & statistics. Retrieved March 13, 2009, from
  13. Burrell, L. M., Adams, G. A., Durand, D., & Castro, C. A. (2006). The impact of military lifestyle demands on well-being, Army, and family outcomes. Armed Forces and Society, 33, 43–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). Journal of Health & Social Behavior, 24, 385–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cohen, S., & Williamson, G. (1988). Perceived stress in a probability sample of the U.S. In S. Spacapam & S. Oskamp (Eds.), The social psychology of health: Claremont Symposium on Applied Social Psychology. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Crary, D. (2003, April). Iraq war brings call to ban moms in combat: Front-line assignments for mothers in uniform are derided by groups opposed to feminism. Retrieved May 11, 2003, from
  17. Cummings, E. M., Keller, P. S., & Davies, P. T. (2005). Towards a family process model of maternal and paternal depressive symptoms: Exploring multiple relations with child and family functioning. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46, 479–489.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Defense Manpower Data Center. (2008). U.S. active duty demographic profile. Retrieved February 23, 2009, from
  19. Department of Defense. (2001). The military family resource center: 2001 demographics report. Retrieved August 9, 2009, from
  20. Department of Defense (2008). Active duty demographic profile: Assigned strength, gender, race, marital, education and age profile of active duty force. Retrieved on September 1st 2010 from Scholar
  21. Department of Defense. (2009). Active duty military personnel by rank/grade. Retrieved November 2, 2009, from
  22. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Research and Development, National Institute of Mental Health, & United States Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. (2006, May). Mapping the landscape of deployment-related adjustment and mental disorders. Meeting Summary of a Working Group to Inform Research, Rockville, MD. Retrieved August 9, 2009, from
  23. Dirkzwager, A. J. E., Bramsen, I., Adèr, H., & van der Ploeg, H. M. (2005). Secondary traumatization in partners and parents of Dutch peacekeeping soldiers. Journal of Family Psychology, 19, 217–226.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Dutra, L., Campbell, L., & Westen, D. (2004). Quantifying clinical judgment in the assessment of adolescent psychopathology: Reliability, validity, and factor structure of the child behavior checklist for clinician report. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 60, 65–85.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Eaton, K. M., Hoge, C. W., Messer, S. C., Whitt, A. A., Cabrera, O. A., McGurk, D., et al. (2008). Prevalence of mental health problems, treatment need, and barriers to care among primary care-seeking spouses of military service members involved in Iraq and Afghanistan deployments. Military Medicine, 173, 1051–1056.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Fonseca, C. A., Schmaling, K. B., Stoever, C., Gutierrez, C., Blume, A. W., & Russell, M. L. (2006). Variables associated with intimate partner violence in a deploying military sample. Military Medicine, 171, 627–631.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Forgatch, M. S., Patterson, G. R., & Skinner, M. L. (1988). A mediational model for the effect of divorce on antisocial behavior in boys. In E. M. Hetherington & J. D. Arasteh (Eds.), Impact of divorce, single parenting, and stepparenting on children (pp. 135–154). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  28. Galovski, T., & Lyons, J. A. (2004). Psychological sequelae of combat violence: A review of the impact of PTSD on the veteran’s family and possible interventions. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 9, 477–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gibbs, D. A., Martin, S. L., Johnson, R. E., Rentz, E. D., Clinton-Sherrod, M., & Hardison, J. (2008). Child maltreatment and substance abuse among U.S. Army soldiers. Child Maltreatment, 13, 259–268.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Glaser, B. A., Kronsnoble, K. M., & Forkner, C. B. W. (1997). Children and teachers as raters of children’s behavior. Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 19, 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Godwin, S. A. (1996). An ethnography of women’s experience with military deployment. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, United States International University, San Diego.Google Scholar
  32. Greenbaum, P. E., & Dedrick, R. F. (1998). Hierarchical confirmatory factor analysis of the Child Behavior Checklist 4/18. Psychological Assessment, 10, 148–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hock, E., Schirtzinger, M. B., & Lutz, W. (1992). Psychology of Women Quarterly, 16, 229–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hoge, C. W., Castro, C. A., & Eaton, K. M. (2006). Impact of combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan on family functioning: Findings from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research Land Combat Study. In Human dimensions in military operations – military leaders’ strategies for addressing stress and psychological support (pp. 5-1–5-6). Meeting Proceedings RTO-MP-HFM-134, Paper 5. Neuilly-sur-Seine, France: RTO. Retrieved August 8, 2009, from
  35. Hoge, C. W., Castro, C. A., Messer, S. C., McGurk, D., Cotting, D. A., & 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.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Hosek, J., Kavanagh, J., & Miller, L. (2006). How deployments affect service members. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation.Google Scholar
  37. Jensen, P. S., Grogan, D., Xenakis, S. N., & Bain, M. W. (1989). Father absence: Effects on child and maternal psychopathology. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 28, 171–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jensen, P. S., Martin, D., & Watanabe, H. K. (1996). Children’s response to parental separation during Operation Desert Storm. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 35, 433–441.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Kelley, M. L. (1994a). Military-induced separation in relation to maternal adjustment and children’s behavior. Military Psychology, 6, 163–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kelley, M. L. (1994b). The effects of military-induced separation on family factors and children’s behavior. Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 64, 103–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kelley, M. L. (2002). The effects of deployment on traditional and non-traditional military families: Navy mothers and their children. In M. G. Ender (Ed.), Military brats and other global nomads: Growing-up in organization families (pp. 3–24). Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  42. Kelley, M. L. (2006). Single military parents in the new millennium. In Castro C. A., Adler, A. B., & Britt, C. A. (Eds.), Psychology of war (The military family, Vol. 3, pp. 93–114). Westport, CT: Praeger Press.Google Scholar
  43. Kelley, M. L., Herzog-Simmer, P. A., & Harris, M. A. (1994). Effects of military-induced separation on the parenting stress and family functioning of deploying mothers. Military Psychology, 6, 125–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Kelley, M. L., Hock, E., Bonney, J. F., Jaris, M. S., Smith, K. M., & Gaffney, M. A. (2001). Navy mothers experiencing and not experiencing deployment: Reasons for staying in or leaving the military. Military Psychology, 13, 55–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kelley, M. L., Hock, E., Jarvis, M. S., Smith, K. M., Gaffney, M. A., & Bonney, J. F. (2002). Psychological adjustment of Navy mothers experiencing deployment. Military Psychology, 14, 199–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kelley, M. L., Hock, E., Smith, K. M., Jarvis, M. S., Bonney, J. F., & Gaffney, M. A. (2001). Internalizing and externalizing behavior of children with enlisted Navy mothers experiencing military-induced separation. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40, 464–471.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Koot, H. M., Van Den Oord, E. J. C. G., Verhulst, F. C., & Boomsma, D. I. (1997). Behavioral and emotional problems in young preschoolers: Cross-cultural testing of the validity of the Child Behavioral Checklist/2-3. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 25, 183–196.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Kremen, A. (1990). Observer-measured personality correlates of self-reported susceptibility to anxiety: Some sex differences. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of California, Berkeley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Leschied, A. W., Chiodo, D., Whitehead, P. C., & Hurley, D. (2005). The relationship between maternal depression and child outcomes in a child welfare sample: Implications for treatment and policy. Child & Family Social Work, 10, 281–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Martin, S. L., Gibbs, D. A., Johnson, R. E., Rentz, E. D., Clinton-Sherrod, M., & Hardison, J. (2007). Spouse abuse and child abuse by Army soldiers. Journal of Family Violence, 22, 587–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Martin, J. A., & McClure, P. (2000). Today’s active duty military family: The evolving challenges of military family life. In J. A. Martin, L. N. Rosen, & L. R. Sparacino (Eds.), The military family: A practice guide for human service providers (pp. 3–24). Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  52. McCarroll, J. E., Fan, Z., Newby, J. H., & Ursano, R. J. (2008). Trends in US army child maltreatment reports: 1990–2004. Child Abuse Review, 17, 108–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Medway, F., Davis, K., Cafferty, T., Chappell, K., & O’Hearn, R. (1995). Family disruption and adult attachment correlates of spouse and child reactions to separation and reunion due to Operation Desert Storm. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 14, 97–118.Google Scholar
  54. Milliken, C. S., Auchterlonie, J. L., & Hoge, C. W. (2007). Longitudinal assessment of mental health problems among active and reserve component soldiers returning from the Iraq war. Journal of the American Medical Association, 298, 2141–2148.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Minuchin, S. (1974). Families and family therapy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Moen, P. (1992). Women’s two roles: A contemporary dilemma. New York: Auburn House.Google Scholar
  57. National Military Family Association. (2005). Report on the cycles of deployment: An analysis of survey responses from April through September, 2005. Retrieved March 17, 2009, from
  58. Okie, S. (2005). Traumatic brain injury in the war zone. New England Journal of Medicine, 352, 2043–2047.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Palmer, C. (2008). A theory of risk and resilience factors in military families. Military Psychology, 20, 205–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Patterson, G. R. (1999). A proposal relating a theory of delinquency to societal rates of juvenile crime: Putting Humpty Dumpty together again. In M. Cox & J. Brooks-Gunn (Eds.), Conflict and cohesion in families: Causes and consequences, The advances in family research series (pp. 11–35). Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Pierce, P. F., Vinokur, A. D., & Buck, C. L. (1998). Effects of war-induced maternal separation on children’s adjustment during the Gulf War and two years later. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 28, 1286–1311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Price, J. L., & Kim, S. (1993). Armed Forces & Society, 20, 125–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Rohall, D. E., Segal, M. W., & Segal, D. R. (1999). Examining the importance of organizational supports on family adjustment to Army life in a period of increasing separation. Journal of Political and Military Sociology, 27, 49–65.Google Scholar
  65. Rosen, L. N., Teitelbaum, J. M., & Westhuis, D. J. (1993a). Children’s reactions to the Desert Storm deployment: Initial findings from a survey of Army families. Military Medicine, 158, 465–469.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. Rosen, L. N., Teitelbaum, J. M., & Westhuis, D. J. (1993b). Stressors, stress mediators, and emotional well-being among spouses of soldiers deployed to the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Shield/Storm. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 23, 1587–1593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Ruscio, A. M., Weathers, F. W., King, L. A., & King, D. W. (2002). Male war-zone veterans’ perceived relationships with their children: The importance of emotional numbing. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 15, 351–357.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Schultz, R., & Rosenfield, P. (2009). 2009 Navy spouse personal and family readiness (PRF) survey. Navy Personnel Research, Studies and Technology (NPRST), Millington, TN.Google Scholar
  69. Schwab, J., Ice, J., Stephenson, J., Raymer, K., Houser, K., Graziano, L., et al. (1995). War and the family. Stress Medicine, 11, 131–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Shaw, D. S., Connell, A., Dishion, T. J., Wilson, M. N., & Gardner, F. (2009). Improvements in maternal depression as a mediator of intervention effects on early childhood problem behavior. Development and Psychopathology, 21, 417–439.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  71. Stanger, C., & Lewis, M. (1993). Agreement among parents, teachers, and children on internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 22, 107–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. SteelFisher, G. K., Zaslavsky, A. M., & Blendon, R. J. (2008). Health-related impact of deployment extensions on spouses of active duty Army personnel. Military Medicine, 173, 221–229.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  73. Tanielian, T., Jaycox, L. H., Sachell, T., Marshall, G. N., Burnam, M. A., Eibner, C., et al. (2008). Invisible wounds of war: Summary and recommendations for addressing psychological and cognitive injuries. Santa Monica, CA: The Rand Corporation.Google Scholar
  74. Tarrier, N., Sommerfield, C., & Pilgrim, H. (1999). Relatives’ expressed emotion (EE) and PTSD treatment outcome. Psychological Medicine, 29, 801–811.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. Tucker, M., & Kelley, M. L. (2009). Social support and life stress as related to the psychological distress of single enlisted Navy mothers. Military Psychology, 21, 82–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. U.S. Bureau of the Census. (2008). Table FG6. One-parent unmarried family groups with own children/1 under 18, by marital status of the reference person: 2008. Retrieved October 27, 2009, from
  77. U.S. Bureau of the Census. (2009). Table 499. Military reserve personnel: 1995 to 2007. Retrieved February 19, 2009, from
  78. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). Health, United States, 2008. Retrieved June 4, 2009, from
  79. Vogt, D. S., Samper, R. E., King, D. W., King, L., & Martin, J. (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.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  80. Wachs, T. D., Black, M. M., & Engle, P. L. (2009). Maternal depression: A global threat to children’s health, development, and behavior and to human rights. Child Development Perspectives, 3, 51–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle L. Kelley
    • 1
  • Ashley N. Doane
  • Matthew R. Pearson
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyOld Dominion UniversityNorfolkUSA

Personalised recommendations