Research in Nursing and Health
US military deployments have become more frequent and lengthier in duration since 2003. Over half of US military members are married, and many also have children. The authors sought to understand the process of deployment from the perspective of the military family. After a thorough search of the literature, 21 primary research reports of 19 studies with an aggregate sample of 874 were analyzed using qualitative metasynthesis. The deployment process was experienced in four temporal domains. The military family as a whole shared the pre-deployment transition: all family members felt uncertain about the future, needed to complete tasks to “get ready” for deployment, and experienced a sense of distancing in preparation for the upcoming separation. The AD member went through the deployment transition independently, needing to “stay engaged” with the military mission, building a surrogate family and simultaneously trying to maintain connection with the family at home. In parallel, the home front family was going through a transposement transition, moving forward as an altered family unit, taking on new roles and responsibilities, and trying to simultaneously connect with the deployed member and find support from other military families. In post-deployment, the family went through the “reintegration” transition together, managing expectations, and readjusting family roles, all needing understanding and appreciation for their sacrifices during the recent separation. Effective family communication was important for military family well-being after deployment but unexpectedly challenging for many. Clinical, research, and policy recommendations are discussed. (Author abstract)
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