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BACKGROUND

The impact of military life experiences, including deployment, on the health and well-being of service members and the potential consequences for mental and physical illnesses and injuries has been well documented. Less well understood are the consequences of military life stress on the spouses and children of military personnel. Considerable research indicates that families are resilient, but it is also clear that family dynamics and overall well-being can significantly impact service members. To better understand this critical interdependency, more research is needed about the relationship of military experiences to spouse and child health, and overall family functioning.

OBJECTIVE

­The primary study objective is to determine the impact of military experiences, including deployments, on family health and well-being, and to provide strategic evidence-based policy recommendations that inform leadership and guide interventions that positively impact military families.

STUDY DESIGN

The Family Study comprises data from both service personnel and their married partners. Participants volunteer to complete a self-report survey every three years for up to 21 years for spouses and 67 for military members. Because the influence of military life can be long-lasting, spouses are followed even if their service member partner separates from service or their marital relationship changes. The Millennium Cohort Program periodically enrolls new panels of participants, with one panel of spouses enrolled in 2011 and another in 2020.

SURVEY

The survey is based on a conceptual model that focuses on four broad areas:
(1) spouse physical health
(2) spouse mental health and adjustment
(3) spouse's reports of their children's mental/physical health and functioning
(4) family functioning and protective and vulnerability factors.
 

VALUE

In any time of war, the costs of conflict extend far beyond the number of lives lost. It is difficult to quantify the loss of loved ones or count those facing a life-long adjustment after a service member returns home permanently changed. During the Iraq and Afghanistan operations alone, more than 2.5 million US military personnel deployed, and over 2 million children were directly affected by a parent’s deployment. The critical role families play in supporting the readiness of our troops and the extent of their sacrifices have long been recognized by policy makers. Because they serve too, the DoD is firmly committed to understanding and promoting the best quality of life for military families.
 

COLLABORATIONS

Collaborators include scientists from the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, Duke University, Abt Associates, and other leading academic institutions. In addition, the Millennium Cohort Program Strategic Board includes many distinguished external scientific researchers and subject matter experts from academia, the DoD, and Veterans Affairs.
 

STUDY FACTS

  • ​The Family Study is the only DoD-wide long-term Study of military families, and the only DoD-representative study of the health of military spouses and children.
  • This large-scale study offers a unique opportunity to evaluate the comparative strengths and vulnerabilities of important subpopulations such as Guard and Reserve families, dual-military couples, and male spouses.
  • The Family Study is a unique occupational cohort holistically examining the impact of the nature and severity of specific military life experiences on service members, spouses, and children.

CONTACT


The Principal Investigator of the Millennium Cohort Family Study is Dr. Valerie Stander, and the primary performing site is the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, CA. The study team can be contacted (toll-free) at 1-800-571-9248 or email DOD.familycohortinfo@mail.mil. More information is also available on the website, www.familycohort.org
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