Deployment of Military Mothers during Wartime


Name: Janice Blair Agazio

Rank: LTC(ret)

Organization: The Catholic University of America

Performance Site: Catholic University of America, Washington, DC; DiLorenzo Tri-Care Health Clinic, Washington, DC; Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC; Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, NC

Year Published: 2009

Abstract Status: Final


Purpose: The primary aim was to describe the perceptions of military mothers regarding separation from their children over the trajectory of the wartime deployment experience.    

Design: Grounded theory

Methods:  Interview lasting 1-1.5 hours structured around the stages of deployment. 

Sample: Thirty-seven military women representing primarily Army (81%) and Air Force (19%) active duty (91%) women deployed to Iraq (84%). Many had multiple deployments (30%) to both theaters lasting 6-15 months at a time. At the time of separation, children ranged in age from 3 months- 12 years. Many were single mothers (32%) or married to another service member (57%).

Analysis: Interviews were transcribed verbatim and the constant comparative method was used to identify core processes through a combination of open, axial, and selective coding in order to construct a theoretical model of the deployment separation.  

Findings: Primary themes included: missing milestones, commitment, communication, child reactions, mother guilt, and “it takes a village”.  An emerging theory of mother deployment separation was developed around the core construct “preserving the sacred bond”.  Participants identified normalizing strategies to help mothers maintain a relationship and foster connectedness with their children during the separation. Emotional reactions such as distancing and relinquishing control helped mothers focus upon the mission. Reintegration involved ongoing adjustment for mother and child(ren).   

Implications for Military Nursing: This study increases understanding of mother separation in wartime deployments.  The findings identified strategies useful before and during wartime deployments; provided evidence based indications for policy development; and will guide support networks working with families and children.


Final Report is available on NTRL: