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Contribution to Book
"The Best Years of Our Lives”: Military Service and Family Relationships – A Life Course Perspective
Life Course Perspectives on Military Service (2012)
  • Daniel Burland
  • Jennifer H. Lundquist, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

All lives of military personnel and veterans are linked to other lives, but as Burland and Lundquist’s Chapter 8 (in this volume) indicates, this social reality is shown primarily by studies of military families within the relatively short period of the soldiers’ military service. The active-duty service member’s enlistment, departure for basic training, and deployment overseas, when that occurs, are documented by military records, and perhaps by fi eld surveys. By contrast, longitudinal studies of veterans, frequently over many years, have tended to focus on the individual veteran to the exclusion of significant others, family members, and friends. This limitation may reflect the challenge and cost of collecting data on nuclear family members and friends over time. Whatever the explanation, little is known about veteran families when compared to those of civilians across the life course, or about aging veterans in the changing world of their families. The authors consider variation based on the timing of family formation in relation to military service, the type of military service, and sociodemographic characteristics. Burland and Lundquist eff ectively use the linked lives perspective to demonstrate that military service has enduring eff ects on marital stability, children, and spouses, making a strong case that the long-lasting institutional infl uences of the military extend beyond the military personnel who directly participate in the institution. In the era of the All-Volunteer Force, when many service members make a career in the armed forces, wives, husbands, and children often spend some portion of their lives directly aff ected by the military. Although some people only experience the military through the memories of a veteran to whom their lives became linked after the service member separated from the armed forces, others directly experience the military as an institutional influence on their own lives, which raises important questions about veteran families, spouses, and children that need to be addressed in life-course research.

  • veterans,
  • military families,
  • life course,
  • family
Publication Date
J. Wilmoth and A. London
Citation Information
Daniel Burland and Jennifer H. Lundquist. ""The Best Years of Our Lives”: Military Service and Family Relationships – A Life Course Perspective" Life Course Perspectives on Military Service (2012)
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