ADULT ATTACHMENT AND SPOUSAL REACTIONS TO MILITARY DEPLOYMENT SEPARATIONS AND REUNIONS
The purpose of my dissertation was to assess the relevance of adult attachment in explaining spousal adjustment and relationship functioning in military deployment experiences. Specifically, I was interested in identifying what attachment dimensions are related to spousal coping and relationship perceptions during deployment separations and reunions, when and how attachment dimensions are related to outcomes during across the deployment cycle, and why attachment dimensions are related to such outcomes. This project was sponsored by the Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis (Department of National Defence) and consisted of three phases. Phase One was cross-sectional, examining civilian spouses/partners of military members experiencing a deployment separation (Group A), and civilian spouses/partners of military members experiencing a deployment reunion (Group B). Group A individuals were invited to participate in a longitudinal study, following them monthly across the separation, as Phase Two. Phase Three consisted of a large-scale survey sent to spouses/partners of military members capturing several indices of coping and relationship functioning for spouses of varying partner deployment status’. In Phase One, for Group A, attachment anxiety was related to compromised coping and relationship perceptions during the separation, and attachment avoidance related to increased coping, but negative relationship perceptions. The relationships between attachment anxiety and relationship perceptions were moderated by time deployed and experience with deployments. For Group B, attachment anxiety was related to decreased coping and negative relationship perceptions during the reunion. The relationships between attachment anxiety and relationship perceptions were mediated by expectations of the return, and were moderated by time reunited. In Phase Two, attachment avoidance was related to negative relationship perceptions including difficulties with emotional support. In Phase Three, attachment anxiety, attachment avoidance, and their interaction was related to indices of coping and relationship functioning. Further, some of these relationships were moderated by environmental conditions. Notably, recent deployment status moderated relationships among attachment dimensions and perceived relationship and coping outcomes. Finally, I found that emotional fitness mediated relationships among attachment anxiety and coping outcomes, and perceptions of partner support mediated relationships among attachment anxiety and relationship outcomes. Practical and theoretical implications and future directions are discussed.
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