Deployment of Military mothers during wartime

Deployment of Military mothers during wartime


Name: Janice Agazio


Presenter/Poster: Podium

Year: 2014


The purpose of this study was to describe the perceptions of military mothers regarding separation from their children over the trajectory of the deployment experience during wartime. To date, father deployments have been studied, but as mother deployments are a relatively new phenomenon, few studies are available in the literature.

a) What is the process of managing a deployment for military mothers and their children? b) How do military mothers describe the effects of a deployment upon themselves and their children? c) How do military mothers prepare themselves and their children for deployment? d) How do military mothers manage the separation from their children during deployment? e) How do military mothers manage their relationship with their children during and following deployment? and f) What strategies were effective in maintaining relationship with children during deployment?

Using a grounded theory design, 37 military women with children under 12 years of age who deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan participated in a 1-1.5 hour interview structured around the stages of deployment. Theoretical sampling and constant comparative method allowed identification of core processes for developing a theoretical model of maternal deployment separation.

Stages of deployment as described by Pincus, House, Cristenson, and Adler (2005) was used to organize initial interview questions.

Participants represented 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%). 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.

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.

This research was sponsored by the TriService Nursing Research Program, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences; however, the information or content and conclusions do not necessarily represent the official position or policy of, nor should any official endorsement be inferred by, the TriService Nursing Research Program, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.