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Military Marriages Are Strong and Steady

Update Date: May 11, 2012 03:14 PM EDT

Despite the demands of military service and the threat of long separations, marriages of military members are not more vulnerable than civilian marriages, according to a new study.

Benjamin R. Karney, David S. Loughran, and Michael S. Pollard found that service members are significantly more likely to get married, but are not more likely to get divorced than civilians. Moreover, the risk of divorce among military marriages has not significantly increased since the current military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq began though lengthy deployments have led to concerns about the vulnerability of military marriages.

The researchers tried to compare the marital and divorce status of military personnel and civilians in the years immediately before and after the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

They analyzed records from 1998 to 2005 from the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, which collects data about the entire male population of active military members, and compared them to the Current Populations Surveys from the same years, which documents statistics about civilians.

Despite the fact that more servicemen began to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, between the years of 2002 and 2005, the divorce rates for military remained constant, and did not exceed the divorce rates of civilian couples.

The authors found that not only were members of the military either equally or less likely to be divorced than comparable civilians, but that this disparity increased with older or retired service members.

"A possible explanation for this pattern is that time spent in military service enhances the stability of military marriages," researchers said.

They discussed the reasons for their findings, citing the extensive benefits provided to married military members such as housing supplements, cost of living bonuses, the ability to live off-base with their families, and full spousal health care coverage.

The findings of the study appear in the Journal of Family Issues, published by SAGE journal.

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