Infidelity, Divorce More Common Among Vets?

That is the finding of research which was presented earlier this week in Las Vegas. From the opening paragraph of this article:

Veterans were significantly more likely to have ever engaged in extramarital sex and ever gotten divorced than people who were never in the military, according to new research to be presented at the 106th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.
But it was the second paragraph that really caught my attention.
The study, based on data from a 1992 national survey, found that more than 32 percent of ever-married veterans reported extramarital sex, which is about twice the rate among ever-married non-veterans (16.8 percent).
So let me see if I understand. This is now making news although the data supporting the conclusion is based on an almost two decades old survey?

Sometimes I feel as if the military community is a huge pool of lab rats constantly being prodded, poked, tagged and observed. Hardly a week goes by that we're not contacted by a student or research assistant or university or think tank asking us to participate in a study on the effects of deployment on children, or how ten years of war has affected our mental health or how the current OPTEMPO has placed stress on our marriages. It's absolutely true, we do feel like caged animals on occasion.

I have to admit, I'm studied out right about now....

Although study after study on the same predictable topics continue to be churned out, I've never seen data this old make news. I'm not an analyst or sociologist and have no idea if it's common practice to produce research based on such antiquated data, but I find this to be disturbing given the attention-grabbing conclusion, and I hope that consumers of this information won't automatically apply that snapshot in time to modern-era veterans.

"To the extent that the patterns observed in these data hold for our current veteran population, the results of this study provide evidence that the concerns about infidelity among spouses of persons who have served in the military are to a considerable degree valid," said Andrew S. London, chair of the sociology department and a sociology professor at Syracuse University.
Would a study of Iraq and Afghanistan era veterans with the same data collected in 1992 produce the same results today? For all I know, a new study using more current, comprehensive data might reveal that yes, indeed infidelity and divorce is more common among veterans. Or, it may show just the opposite. The point is, we don't know. Actually, there's a lot we don't know. The release of this research now raises more questions than it answers. And to be fair, the authors of the study do admit that there are issues to consider.
As valuable as the NHSLS data are, London and his co-authors believe that their findings raise important new questions that can only be addressed with new data collection. "We do not know from these data whether the extramarital sex occurred prior to, during, or after the conclusion of the respondent's military service, and we do not know the military service status of spouses," London said. "New, relatively large-scale data collection initiatives that follow people over time, examine different stages of life, and collect state-of-the-science measurements of military service experiences, sexual behavior, and marriage and family outcomes from husbands and wives are desperately needed."
According to the article (I don't have my hands on the actual study), the sample of veterans used in this study range from those who could have served from the Korean War to Desert Storm.
For ease of presentation, the authors used the term "veteran" to describe people who had previously served in the military or who were on active duty at the time of the survey. A very small number (26) of ever-married persons were on active-duty at the time of the survey. Although the authors do not have information about the specific time period of military service, they note that the age distribution in the NHSLS suggests that respondents were born between 1932 and 1974, and therefore turned 18 between 1950 and 1992.
These eras were very different from one another. Each generation of veterans -- and spouses -- have faced very different internal and external environments and challenges. Furthermore, in a more modern context, I think the authors of this study may be a little late to the party.
In terms of the study's policy implications, London said, "This research can increase our understanding of some of the problems faced by military and veteran families, and can inform the development of interventions used to help them."
So much has changed since 1992. So very much. A decade of war has brought about an enormous amount of money and resources being pumped into marriage programs and family support. And while there is always room for improvement in some areas, as far as "interventions used to help them," I think we've been sufficiently intervened...

I realize the importance of studying military relationships and so does the military. But once, just once, I'd love for an anthropologist to observe us in our natural habitat and produce a study about our resiliency and strength.

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