Protective Buffering by Service Members During Military Deployments: Associations with Psychological Distress and Relationship Functioning

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Protective buffering, Couples, Marriage, Deployment, Military


To shield a romantic partner from potential distress due to stressors occurring during deployment, service members (SMs) may engage in protective buffering, or withholding information or concerns from a romantic partner. This study utilized data from 54 couples collected before, during, and after a military deployment to assess whether SMs engaged in protective buffering while deployed and the possible associations between buffering and psychological, relationship, and contextual factors. Only 2% of SMs indicated never engaging in protective buffering during a deployment. In bivariate analyses, only partners’ psychological distress prior to deployment was significantly associated (negatively) with protective buffering. In multilevel models with time nested within individuals, and individuals nested within couples, higher buffering was associated with less partner distress during deployment, but was also associated with higher SM distress both during and after deployment. In these multilevel models, protective buffering was not significantly associated with SM or partner marital satisfaction.

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