Research supporting military families

Military service is a joint commitment made by both Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and their families. Consequently, military families require support that is specific to the dynamics of military life. In order to develop programs and policies that can facilitate this support, leaders and decision makers need access to information that can help improve their understanding of the challenges faced by military families.

About Military Family Research

Demand for individual and family support is increasing particularly as service members reintegrate after returning from combat and humanitarian missions. Illness and injury can make the readjustment period even more difficult. Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC)’s Personnel and Family Support research program leads departmental research efforts. DRDC conducts research using social science research tools such as surveys, conceptual models, and statistical analysis to examine both the challenges faced by military families and the effectiveness of current programs and services at addressing these challenges.

Through collaborative research partnerships, DRDC researchers examine the challenges that are specific to military families, including: frequent relocations; temporary housing; spousal unemployment and underemployment; separations; deployments of a family member to potentially dangerous situations; and, supporting ill or injured family members during reintegration to civilian life.

The social sciences research work is conducted by Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis, a research division of DND reporting to Chief of Military Personnel and Assistant Deputy Minister (Science and Technology).

Research Results

Impact of illness/injury on family:

In collaboration with Carleton University, DRDC is examining the impact of illness/injury on CAF members’ family relationships and the impact of these relationships on members’ recovery/rehabilitation. This work will be used to shape the delivery of programs and services that provide support to ill/injured members and their families, ensuring that the programs are effectively delivering scientifically-validated solutions for maintaining healthy relationships.

Family adaptation to military life:

It is important to know how families adapt to the demands of military life. DRDC administered a survey of CAF spouses and common-law-partners which highlights the need for effective programs/services for military families. The results show that high levels of conflict between military and family life are linked to poorer mental health, ineffective methods of coping with stress and lower social support among spouses. In particular, the survey made it clear that families who were relocated found it difficult to re-establish seniority at work, build a support network, find employment, and find medical care and childcare. Information like this is important when determining what types of support services should be available for CAF families.


DND collaborated with Carleton University and Mount Saint Vincent University to establish a research program examining the impact of military life stressors on children. The first phase of the research program, completed in 2012, examined the resilience of young children from military families and identified the protective factors that help children cope with stress. The second phase, completed in 2013, assessed the impact of military life-related stressors on single military parent families and identified some unique challenges for these families. The latest phase currently underway examines: the resiliency of adolescents from military families; identifies protective factors for the psychological health of adolescents; measures the impact of military stressors on single parents’ well-being and their relationship with children. It also seeks to assess the awareness and utility of current programs/services and examines the need for additional unique services required to support children, adolescents and/or single military parents.

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