Stages of Family Stress


Researchers studying military families have begun to articulate how each “phase” or “cycle” of deployment carries significant challenges.

  • Before deployment, many families anticipating deployment experience anger, resentment and hurt.[i]
  • During deployment, families feel the effects of separation and perceived loss. Families become increasingly concerned with financial strain, employment changes, increased childcare needs, and social support.[ii]
  • During deployment, civilian spouses may assume new family roles, experience disruptions in routines, feel uncertain about the service member’s safety, and suffer from an inability to plan for the future.[iii]
  • After deployment, family reintegration can be stressful for all family members because roles are redefined and relationships are renegotiated.[iv]  The reunion and reintegration phase was most difficult for families with adolescents.[v]
  • After deployment, children’s stress can affect returned parents. One study found that soldiers recently returned from combat deployments exhibited higher levels of anxiety than deployed peers. The severity of their stress symptoms was associated with the severity of their school-age children’s adjustment problems.[vi]

[i]Rentz, Marshall, Loomis, Casteel, Martin, and Gibbs (2007). Risk of child abuse, neglect in military families due to stress of deployment, UNC study shows. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 8 May 2007. Available:
[ii] Hubner et al. “Supporting Youth during Parental Deployment: Strategies for Professionals and Families.”
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Ibid.
[v] Huebner, Mancini, Bowen, and Orthner (2009).
[vi] Lester et al. (2008).