The Effects of Deployment Stress and Cognitive Schema Disruption on Relationship Satisfaction among Non-Marital and Marital Partners of Service Members
Buchanan, Amy Lee
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Current literature points to the stressful nature of partner military deployment on partners of service members. This experience of deployment is analyzed through the Double ABCX model of adaptation that focuses on the pile-up of stressors that partners experience as well as the influence resources and perception have on adaptation. Research indicates that stress related to deployment can negatively impact marital relationships, with factors such as age and rank in the military being associated with both risk and resilient outcomes. A popular area of research has focused on the instance of secondary trauma in partners of service members with findings suggesting a negative association between military partner PTSD, relationship satisfaction, and the presence of secondary trauma in at-home partners. However, literature assessing secondary trauma in partners of service members has yet to evaluate levels of cognitive schema disruption, particularly related to partner's beliefs about self and others pertaining to areas that Constructivist Self Development Theory has identified as being sensitive to the effects of secondary trauma. In addition to this limitation, there is a paucity of research that evaluates the experience of non-marital partners of service members. The current study sought to address these limitations of past literature and found a significant difference in relationship satisfaction scores between marital and non-marital partners of service members. The factor structure of the Trauma and Attachment Belief Scale was explored and a four factor model was uncovered that included factors related to others, other-safety, self-safety, and self. Additionally, a model including marital status, length of the relationship, service member rank, number of deployments, measures of perceived and actual experienced risk to the service member during deployment, and cognitive schema disruption was found to significantly predict relationship satisfaction among partners of service members. The results of this study specifically highlight the importance of considering marital status when evaluating the experience of partners of service members. Additionally, findings support the application of the Double ABCX model and use of the Trauma and Attachment Belief Scale with partners of service members. These findings are discussed in detail and clinical implications are explored.