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The Truth About Military Couples and Divorce

It's an old statistic told so many times that most divorce attorneys in Pasadena started to believe it was the truth: Military marriages are at a higher risk of divorce than civilian couples. After all, it makes sense that the stresses of combat, long absences and potentially life-changing injuries could destroy even the strongest of unions. But a new look at the data shows that this might not be the case at all.

Robert Hughes Jr. of the University of Illinois covered a fascinating new study of military couples and divorce for the Huffington Post this week. In the story, he quotes a 2006 New York Times article by Lynette Alvarez states, "Military deployments have a way of chewing up marriages, turning daily life upside down and making strangers out of husbands and wives." Yet a new study conducted by Benjamin Karney of UCLA and John Crown of RAND Corp. takes a deeper look by studying the recent personnel records of the U.S. military to estimate the effects of time deployed on the risk of divorce. The study found that overall, women serving in the military are at higher risk for divorce than non-military women, but female Army officers did not fit this specific pattern. Across the branches of the military, couples with children were less likely to divorce than those without kids. Younger couples, just as in non-military America, are more likely to divorce.

As for those deployment myths, Karney and Crown found that deployment might actually help keep military marriages together. In 20 different tests, the pair found that in only two of the tests conducted did deployment mean a greater risk for divorce. In fact, the study found that the longer the deployment, the lower risk of divorce. In the study, Karney and Crown write "for the vast majority of the U.S. military - the longer that a service member was deployed while married, the lower the subsequent risk of marital dissolution.... Deployment appears to enhance the stability of marriage, the longer the deployment, the greater the benefit."

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