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In their shoes: impact of emotions on marital satisfaction, communication, and technology in spouses of deployed military

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Separation from a loved one is a highly stressful event. The range and intensity of emotions accompanying such a separation arguably are amplified when one's spouse deploys. This thesis examines

Separation from a loved one is a highly stressful event. The range and intensity of emotions accompanying such a separation arguably are amplified when one's spouse deploys. This thesis examines at-home spouses (AHSs) of deployed military and how emotion, marital satisfaction, and communication are impacted throughout the deployment cycle. Additionally, I explore technology as a possible coping mechanism to help AHSs adapt and overcome stressfulness of deployment. One hundred sixty-six married females with a partner currently deployed, anticipating deployment, or recently returned from deployment completed an on-line survey. It was predicted AHSs would experience specific emotions during each phase, categorized as "anticipatory," (e.g., anger, worry) "absence" (e.g., lonely, sad) or "post" (e.g., happiness, relief); marital satisfaction also was predicted to be higher among spouses whose partner recently returned from deployment versus was deployed or anticipating deployment. Data showed AHSs whose partner was anticipating or currently deployed reported more "anticipatory" and "absence" emotions than AHSs with a recently returned partner. The former two groups did not differ in these emotions. AHSs with a recently returned partner reported more "post" emotions than the other two groups. Marital satisfaction did not differ based on deployment status. It was also predicted that among AHSs with a currently deployed partner, less negative emotion upon deployment would be associated with more frequent communication during deployment. Data showed AHSs who reported less negative emotion upon deployment engaged in more frequent communication with their deployed partner. Lastly, I predicted AHSs whose partners are currently deployed and who prefer modes of communication allowing direct contact (e.g., Skype) will experience less negative emotions than AHSs who prefer indirect contact (e.g., e-mail). Data showed reports of negative emotion did not differ based on preference for direct versus indirect communication. Therefore, negative emotions may develop and persist before and during deployment, but when the partner returns home, spouses do experience a rebound of positive emotions. Additionally, emotions at the time of deployment may be useful in predicting spouses' communication frequency during deployment. Findings aim to provide knowledge of family life during separation and explore technology as a possible coping mechanism for AHSs.

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  • 2011