Impact of Soldier Reunification on Families'A Longitudinal Study


Name: Margaret McNulty

Rank: CAPT (ret)

Organization: University of Hawaii

Performance Site: Schofield Barracks Clinic affiliated with Tripler Army Medical Center-Wahiawa, Hawaii; University of Hawaii School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene-Honolulu, Hawaii

Year Published: 2006

Abstract Status: Initial


Many studies have now detected the mental and physical health care needs of families and active duty members during periods of deployment and immediately after reunification during peace time activities. Few studies have concentrated on the reunification process and the longitudinal needs of remaining caretakers and families who are now experiencing this phenomena after lengthy deployments to combat regions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nursing needs to know more about the impact of combat related deployment and reunification on the health care needs and utilization of families. More troops are returning after lengthy combat related deployments for an average of twelve months duration. Families and soldiers are hurting. Nursing professionals need to know more about the characteristics of families that make them more at risk for increased needs and family crisis after reunification finally occurs. Families of the Army active duty member will be compared with Hawaiian families assigned to the Army National Guard and Reserves who are returning from combat related duties in Iraq and Afghanistan. This descriptive, correlational, predictive study will examine family resiliency, coherence, support, coping, anxiety, communication, attachment, changeability, changes, strains, adaptation and well-being over the last phase of deployment and three subsequent phases of reunification from -3 months to +12 months. Programs such as the Army's Soldier Assistance Program have been developed for active duty and family members to deal with stressors after deployment. This program is in its infancy and lacks baseline or outcome data to date. Once families are identified for predictive outcomes among those who serve on Active Duty in the Army and families of the Army National Guard and Reserve components, programs such as these will be better able to prepare for the demands and needs of families of returning troops. There is so much yet to be studied and appreciated of the long term impact on these families, including their resiliency and adaptation in the reunification process after extensive wartime separations. The more nursing professionals, health care providers and leaders learn of the anticipated needs of families, the more prepared they will be to intervene appropriately and modify/create programs of prevention for future re-deployments. A preventive profile will be useful for the identification of high risk families during the deployment period, allowing intervention to occur prior to the reunification phase. We are at war. It will not end soon. We owe our families a healthier and richer family life if and when their loved ones return from an isolated duty in a war torn environment. They deserve nothing less!