Military spouses endure stressors that are unique to the military lifestyle. Current research has shown that relocations, separations from family, risk of injury or death, deployments, PTSD, and other factors can negatively impact military families (Easterling & Knox, 2010; Burrell et al, 2006). Unfortunately, there is not an instrument that assesses common military-related spousal stress across all five branches. This study surveyed the common military-related stressors among military spouses in order to construct and validate such a tool. The initial phase utilized a qualitative, focus group design in which over 50 military service members and military spouses were interviewed and asked to discuss the common stressors of military life that they were experiencing. The various stressors identified were compiled and a pool of questions were constructed and compiled in survey format, the Military Family Stressor-Item Pool (MFS-IP), which included questions relating to family, work, education, and health stressors. The second phase utilized a descriptive survey approach, in which a sample of 224 military service members and military spouses completed the MFS-IP, the Life Events Questionnaire (LEQ), and Military Lifestyle Demands Questionnaire (MLDQ).
A sample of n = 132 female military spouses completed the demographic questionnaire and three stessor surveys. Ages ranged from 19 to 56, with a mean age of 32, SD = 7.5. Most participants identified as European-American/White (82.6%), whereas 9% were African-American/Black, 7% were Asian/Pacific Islander, and 5% identified as Other. Participants included 56.8% Army, 27.3% Navy, 8.3% Air Force, 6.8% Marines, and 0.8% Coast Guard military spouses. The majority (93.9%) of participants’ spouses were Active Duty, with 1.5% Reserve, 0.8% National Guard, and 3% Other status. Sixty-one percent of participants’ spouses were enlisted, whereas 39% were officers.
All items from the MFS-IP, LEQ, and MLDQ were analyzed together utilizing exploratory factor analysis (Principle Components Analysis). Eight of the identified components had eigenvalues greater than 1.5 and were above the Scree plot’s point of inflexion. Cumulatively, these components explained 61.42% of the data. These eight components were Personal Health, Business, Educational, Illness/Injury, Relational Difficulties, Deployment/Move Strain, Social & Familial Changes, & Deployment Fears. Because the factors were largely comprised of LEQ items, the resultant instrument was interpreted as an updated version of the LEQ for military spouses, the Life Events Questionnaire – Military Spouse version (LEQ-M). Reliability analyses were conducted for both the total LEQ-M v1.0 and its individual component scales. The total LEQ-M v1.0 was found to be highly reliable, Cronbach’s alpha α = .889. The Personal Health scale was very reliable, Cronbach’s alpha α = .904. The Business component was highly reliable, Cronbach’s alpha α = .852. The Educational component was very reliable, Cronbach’s alpha α = .866. The Illness/Injury component was very reliable, Cronbach’s alpha α = .801. The Relational Change component was very reliable, Cronbach’s alpha α = .816. (However, its reliability improved to .823 with the deletion of one item.) The Deployment/Move Strain component was very reliable, Cronbach’s alpha α = .786. (However, its reliability improved to .797 with the deletion of one item.) The Social & Familial Changes component was very reliable, Cronbach’s alpha α = .783. The Deployment Fears component was very reliable, Cronbach’s alpha α = .859. (However, its reliability improved to .917 with the deletion of one item.) With the deletion of three items, the Life Events Questionnaire – Military Spouse version (v. 1.1) contained 37 items and eight subscales. With the deletion of these three items, the LEQ-M remained highly reliable, Cronbach’s alpha α = .889.