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2012 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference Abstract

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2012 National Meeting

3147 — Soldier and Family Predictors of Pre-Deployment Family Well-Being: Baseline Findings

Erbes CRPolusny MAArbisi PA, and Thuras P, Minneapolis VA Healthcare System;

Military families may be an important source of support as well as strain for National Guard soldiers across the deployment cycle. However, little is known about the mental health functioning of military spouses and children prior to deployment. Using baseline data recently collected from a large cohort of National Guard soldiers and their spouses/partners, we will identify soldier and family predictors of pre-deployment family well-being.

As part of a large, ongoing, prospective, longitudinal study of National Guard soldiers and their spouses/partners, we assessed soldiers’ and military spouses/partners’ baseline mental health functioning, as well as individual/family risk and protective factors approximately 2 to 5 months prior to soldiers’ deployment for one year to Kuwait/Iraq.

Pre-deployment data was collected from 2,089 National Guard soldiers (78% response rate) and 1,073 military spouses/partners (83% response rate). Preliminary findings showed that military spouses suffered elevated rates of mental health symptoms compared to deploying soldiers. Preliminary results of multiple linear regression analyses revealed spouse/partner mental health functioning prior to deployment was associated with spouses’ reports of poorer perceptions of family readiness for deployment, greater concerns about life and family disruptions during the deployment, more pre-deployment family stressors, greater exposure to stressful life events, and less social support.

Although most military spouses/partners did not report clinically elevated mental health symptoms prior to soldiers’ deployment, an important minority of spouses/partner did. These findings suggest there may be a need for increased outreach, assessment, and support for military spouses/partners of National Guard soldiers beginning prior to deployment. Findings suggest interventions that improve social support for spouses/partners, enhance family readiness, and reduce family stressors may be helpful.

Understanding how families are affected by deployments, and how family well-being, in turn, affects the mental health of soldiers can facilitate the development of outreach, support, and intervention efforts for family members that may, in turn, enhance the post-deployment mental health of returning Veterans.

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