For the study, researchers excluded male spouses of female soldiers because their numbers are relatively small. Spouses of Reserve and National Guard, as well as those of active-duty Army personnel who had been in the military less than five years, were also not included because researchers did not have full access to medical information on them during the period before, during and after deployment. The study authors controlled for prior diagnosis of mental health issues.
Still, much remains unanswered about the stresses of war on spouses, including whether depression and other mental health issues are most likely to emerge before, during or after deployment, the authors noted.
Each phase of a deployment can cause stress that could contribute to mental health problems, Mansfield said. Before the deployment, there's anxiety as women prepare themselves and their children for a long absence.
During deployment, women take on added responsibilities as sole caretaker for their home and children, while worrying their husband will be killed or injured. "We know from prior work that the stress surrounding deployment is not limited to the dates of deployments," Mansfield said.
Even the homecoming, called the reintegration period, isn't necessarily easy on the family, Henderson said. Soldiers may come home changed, perhaps because of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or injuries, but in more subtle ways, too.
Wives can also change during the time apart, becoming more independent or simply accustomed to taking care of the children alone.
"The expectations are that everything is going to be OK when he comes home, that any problems we have will be behind us," Hender
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