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Family Support Can Decrease Psychological Strain in Military Personnel


The relationship between family and work is a complicated and important one. For military personnel, having a supportive family environment is especially essential. In a recent study, Heather N. Odle-Dusseau of the Department of Management at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania explored how the family environment influenced psychological well-being in a sample of military personnel. She took a novel approach to this examination and expanded upon existing research by assessing the reciprocal nature of family environment and psychological strain. Odle-Dusseau also evaluated the lagged effects of these relationships by examining how each of these domains predicted the other over a period of 3 months.

The results revealed that family supportive work environments (FSWE) directly impacted psychological strain and predicted increases or decreases in that stress. Specifically, high levels of FSWE at baseline led to less psychological strain three months later. This dynamic was bidirectional, as well. When Odle-Dusseau looked at the predictive factor of psychological strain on FSWE she found that high levels of strain decreased FSWE three months later. However, these effects were not found when Odle-Dusseau looked at changes in both conditions. For instance, as FSWE decreased over time, psychological strain increased. But changes in psychological strain did not account for changes in FSWE at the three month assessment.

Odle-Dusseau believes that changes in the work environment or family support can heavily influence psychological well-being. But she also thinks that increased strain, although it may decrease perceived levels of family support, may not do so immediately. Therefore, Odle-Dusseau hopes future research will collect data over longer periods of time to more closely examine how psychological strain impacts FSWE in the long run. For military personnel, and other individuals under extreme psychological stress, programs designed to improve FSWE could be especially beneficial. Understanding the nature of this multi-faceted relationship between family support, work arenas, and psychological strain could help many people facing overwhelming stress gain access to strengthened resources to help them cope. Odle-Dusseau added, “We encourage future research to include a more systems-based approach and to examine the reciprocal relationships of FSWE with other wellbeing and organizational outcomes such as job performance, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction.”

Odle-Dusseau, H. N., Herleman, H. A., Britt, T. W., Moore, D. D., Castro, C. A., and McGurk, D. (2012). Family-supportive work environments and psychological strain: A longitudinal test of two theories. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0030803

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  • Kitty January 25th, 2013 at 3:51 AM #1

    Oh, if we could all only have a fswe I think that society as a whole would be happier
    dads would see their kids
    moms wouldn’t have that guilt about going back to work
    and kids would see just how much we care for them by busting our humps all day long
    yeah, that sounds good to me

  • annabelle January 25th, 2013 at 8:48 AM #2

    We all need the support in our lives from our employers and our families. This has to be so much greater in those families who are military and experience a great deal of time away from one another. Sometimes it is your spouse or your kids with whom you feel like you have the strongest and the deepest connections and without them around you life can be terribly difficult. But if you knbow that tey are backing you and there rooting for you then sometimes that makes some of life’s smaller stresses disappear. And if they can’t have their own family around then if you see someone in need why not be a surrogate for them and give them the support they may be missing from home.

  • cathy January 25th, 2013 at 11:52 PM #3

    going through depression would have been a lot worse if not for my family who stood by me at all times. do not even wish to imagine where I would have been had I not had my family’s support at the time. It can make such a difference, and for military personnel the workplace is the battlefield and constant time away from family can make family support that much more precious.

  • milner January 26th, 2013 at 1:48 PM #4

    when one spends so much time away from family,not only does family support become important but in fact becomes a necessity.

    it’s not for nothing that not everybody can fill the role of military personnel.it takes more than just the physical part.mental and emotional investments are huge and having your family stand by you can be a life saver.

  • mandy January 27th, 2013 at 11:02 AM #5

    simply moving to another city for work drained me to no limits. being attached to family didn’t help. I came running back home because I missed their presence and support so much! for some people this is more than others. and when you’re constantly exposed to death and harrowing times things do become that much more difficult. these personnel need all the family support they can get and they deserve it.

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