Ethnic Minorities in the Military

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Cover photo image: Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, Third Army celebrates start of Hispanic American Heritage Month, September 15, 2011]
Cover photo image: Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, Third Army celebrates start of Hispanic American Heritage Month, September 15, 2011]
By 2050, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 50% of the U.S. population will be made up of ethnic minorities. Are their social and psychological needs different than those of the predominately European American majority, particularly during family separations such as deployment?

In a 2010 article, Behnke, MacDermid Anderson, and Weiss published the results of a study comparing ethnic groups and their views of the resources available to them during times of stress (such as deployment or other separation from family) and their resulting intention to leave the military [1].

Of the 14,791 participants in the study (married with children), ethnic participant groupings were as follows: 10,829 European/American; 1,987 African-American; 1,111 Hispanic/Latino; 864 Asian American/Pacific Islanders. Resources considered included:

  • Material resources – pay grade and family income.
  • Family resources – personal time, family health benefits, support for children, child care, and military family support programs.
  • Work-related resources – satisfaction with workload, assignments, quality of leadership.
  • Social resources – military member support from the military community.

The researchers found that minority groups faced with family separation were almost twice as likely to consider leaving the military when compared with European Americans. The researchers also found important similarities and differences among minority groups related to separations (such as deployment) and available resources:

  • There were no differences among ethnic groups when considering the relationship between family separation and family or work resources.
  • For Latinos and Asian Americans the influence of material resources, pay grade or family income, was more significant than for other groups.
  • The relationship between family separation and social resources was almost twice as strong for Asian Americans than for other groups.

For all groups, the importance of family resources was as important as work-related resources when considering remaining in the military.

As clinicians working with ethnic minority groups in the military, it is important not only to consider that a client is part of an ethnic minority, but that their individual mental health needs may vary according to their particular ethnicity. For all ethnic minorities, working with the family is particularly important – insuring that there is adequate and stable support from home. Family support may have a large part to play in a military member staying in the military and providing a stable livelihood for the family.


[1] Behnke, A. O., MacDermid, S. M., Anderson, J. C., & Weiss, H. M. (2010). Ethnic variations in the connection between work-induced family separation and turnover intent. Journal of Family Issues, 31(5), 626-655. doi:10.1177/0192513X09349034

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

One Reply to “Ethnic Minorities in the Military”

  1. The discussion in this blog is very concise and easy to read. It actually made me want to look into the article researched for more information. I did notice the minority sample used was quite small compared to the european sample, and I was wondering if the minority sample was large enough to compare the sample to the population. It seemed that the minority was under represented in the study.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *