Living separately during the week: Influences on family functioning, health, and well-being of UK naval families

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Introduction: Military families can experience different separations as a result of the operational demands of service. Nearly 4 in 10 UK Royal Navy and Royal Marine families live separately during the week, yet little is known about how shorter but more frequent and lengthy separations influence family functioning and the health and well-being of partners, children, and young people. Such separations may lead to ambiguous loss relating to the disruption of normative family processes and uncertainty of family roles and boundaries, leading to poorer mental health and well-being. Methods: The authors interviewed 20 women married to serving male naval personnel involved in non-operational separations. They were recruited via an online survey. Young people were recruited for focus groups from pre-existing youth groups in the naval service community and through snowball sampling and social media. Data were analyzed using framework analysis. Results: Participants described how limitations on family time and family dynamics, including roles and relationships, influenced family functioning. Stressors from these experiences, and greater ambiguous loss among partners and adolescents, affected family health and well-being, with poorer mental and physical health among partners and emotional and behavioural difficulties reported by parents of younger children. Discussion: Living separately from personnel during the week was described as having similar challenges for family functioning and well-being as deployment, but with greater stress over a shorter time for partners and younger children, and young people described greater freedom. This study highlights the need for additional research and support for families to better understand different experiences associated with aspects of military life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-93
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Military, Veteran and Family Health
Issue number2
Early online date16 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Military families
  • Wellbeing
  • Naval families
  • Military partners
  • Young Adult


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