A Military Service Members’ Mental Health


“Although military service, and particularly absence due to deployment, has been linked to risk for depression and anxiety among some spouses and children of active duty service members, there is limited research to explain the heterogeneity in family members’ reactions to military service stressors. The current investigation introduces the Timeline Followback Military Family Interview (TFMFI) as a clinically useful strategy to collect detailed time-linked information about the service member’s absences. Two dimensions of parent absence—the extent to which absences coincide with important family events and cumulative time absent—were tested as potential risks to family members’ mental health. Data from 70 mother-adolescent pairs revealed that the number of important family events missed by the service member was linked to elevated youth symptoms of depression, even when accounting for the number of deployments and cumulative duration of the service member’s absence. However, youth who reported more frequent contact with the service member during absences were buffered from the effects of extensive absence. Mothers’ symptoms were associated with the cumulative duration of the service members’ time away, but not with family events missed by the service member. These results identify circumstances that increase the risk for mental health symptoms associated with military family life. The TFMFI provides an interview-based strategy for clinicians wishing to understand military family members’ lived experience during periods of service-member absence.”


In 2013, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) launched an ambitious research program, supported by a Google Global Impact Award, aimed to cultivate a deeper understanding of the social, economic, and wellness concerns of the newest generation of U.S. veterans.

The research program’s principal objective is to highlight the breadth and diversity of our transitioning servicemembers and veterans, in the context of their first-hand, lived experiences across multiple role identities including warfighter, family member, student, and community leader, among others.

To this end, the IVMF research team developed a comprehensive multi-phased research effort to capture these experiences and identities, with a keen interest on transitioning servicemembers and veterans considering or pursuing higher education.

The first phase of this effort commenced with a robust survey, carefully designed and distributed through multiple partners in government, higher education, private sector, and the media. This effort resulted in what is arguably one of the most sweeping datasets to date representing the lived experiences of our latest generation of veterans and military families.


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