Date of Conferral
Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
The end of the Vietnam War heralded the beginning of the all-volunteer Army. In the interest of soldier retention, research focused on the military spouse, their challenges and needs. Four decades of research indicate that soldier deployments, separation from loved ones, and limited career options were among factors negatively impacting psychological and physiological well-being of this population. Support offered through military formal and informal support networks, however, provides some relief. The repeals of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and Defense of Marriage Act expanded the military family to include same-sex spouses yet a review of the literature revealed no research on this relatively new phenomenon. This hermeneutic phenomenological study explored how same-sex spouses of enlisted female soldiers perceive support in their military communities. Presented are findings of semi structured interviews conducted with 12 spouses of active duty enlisted female soldiers recruited using purposive and snowball sampling. Spouses shared their experiences by answering 8 open-ended questions. Research credibility and validity included verbatim transcription and member checking for accuracy, reflexive journaling, audit trail maintenance, and data saturation; manual coding and NVivo11 identified emergent themes and subthemes. Data revealed spouses faced additional stressors due to their sexual minority status, and perceived rejection from support resources created feelings of alienation and isolation. This research represents the first foundational study of this minority group in this setting. Social implications include a deeper understanding of these spouses by unit commanders, chaplaincies, informal support groups, health care providers, and other military agencies in order that these may improve existing, or create additional, support networks and services.