Do Benefits Keep MilFams Together?


A new study shows that the military and the civilian population share virtually the same divorce rate, despite the tremendous stress and pressure faced by the military over the last decade. The possible reason? Pay and benefits.

The lead researcher on the study, published by the RAND Corp., says that the extra pay and, in particular, benefits servicemembers and families receive when they are married likely both increases the marriage rate in the military and keeps those families together in extremely stressful situations – situation that would likely break relationships in the civilian world.

Both the study’s lead researcher, Benjamin Karney, and Army chaplain Col. John Read, who is in charge of Soldier and family ministry for the service, said that strength and resiliency do likely play a part in keeping military marriages together in the face of unprecedented stress.

But, even though researchers can really only make an educated guess as to the cause, Karney said a rate of marriage above that of civilians and a rate of divorce close to or below the rest of society’s points to a single leading reason: the role housing allowances, insurance, child care subsidies,  counseling and other financial support systems play.

One of the key pieces of information missing here that could either fuel or kill Karney’s theory is the rate of divorce among former servicemembers and veterans – data no one currently tracks. The RAND Corp. is getting ready to launch a long term study examining that issue among many others. (You may even be randomly selected to participate in the study like we were).

The commenters on my story over here seem to think that this theory is a bunch of bunk. What’s your take?

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of’s spouse and family blog A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.
  • drgnbttrfly

    Financial stability can play a role on getting through hard times in a marriage. You add financial instability and lack of health care to an already tough situation, and the stress can add to the problems.

    There are many people I have met along the way, who stay together because of the kids. With a military lifestyle, custodial arrangements in divorce are exponentially more difficult than for a family that can live and work within a short distance of one another. I know, I was one. I bounced back and forth between my mom and my AD dad over the years for every deployment, and school he attended, I moved again. I had no stability, except instability. Some divorced couples want to be far away from each other even if it means their kids will be far away too.

  • Veteran

    I am absolutely sure that benefits help military and veterans keep the family together. I know firsthand that some of the VA benefits have kept my family together after a debilitating injury. It makes me feel like I have something to contribute to the family even though I can’t do things most people my age can do anymore. My spouse is happy about it and even though I am not sure how long I have, things seem normal because my family is being taken care of.
    If they want to keep a family together that helps a lot.
    Without my family I would be much worse off. When they have to take me to the doctor or spend days at the hospital or help me get out of bed, I know they don’t resent me because they are also being taken care of.
    My whole family seems happier and that is something that I am very thankful for. I don’t know where I would be without my spouse.