by Karen Shirer, PhD
US families, including military connected families, continue to change and become more diverse. Trends show that:
• Increasing numbers of women and men are single, and a growing number of these single adults are parents
• People continue to divorce/separate and re-partner, leading to more complex family arrangements for children
• More parents are cohabiting instead of getting married
• More fathers are absent from their children’s lives
• More mothers with young children work outside the home, including more mothers serving in the military
Needless to say, the traditional nuclear family is no longer the norm. As a result, Military Service Providers might want to adapt their programs and services to these new military family realities. The trends suggest that they will not be reversing but possibly increasing.
These new family systems face challenges but also have strengths. Their challenges include finding dependable and qualified caregivers for their children as they meet the demands of military service. Many of these parents are young and find raising a child on one’s own very stressful and demanding.
Having others and a supportive community around them is very helpful. These parents’ discipline and commitment to the military helps these parents weather their stressors. The military also provides many supports for these diverse families, including a steady income, access to high quality child care and health care, and supportive commanding officers.
To learn more about the challenges and strengths of these diverse military families, check out these resources. The list is not exhaustive; please let us know if there are other resources that we need to highlight.
1. For more on family trends and changes and what they mean for military families:
Pew Research Report
6 Facts About the U.S. Military and its Changing Demographics
2018 Demographics: Profile of the Military Community
2. Read examples of how solo parents in the military balance their careers and family life
In January 2020, the Military Families Learning Network will be offering a two-part webinar family change and strategies for helping a diversity of families. Part 1: “Family Systems Trends and Transitions: What They Mean for Military Families” January 14th, 2020 at 11:00 am-12:30 pm EST, and Part 2: “Focusing on Co-Parenting: Strengthening Diverse Military Family Systems”on January 28th, 2020 at 11:00 am-12:30 pm EST.
Karen Shirer is a member of the Military Families Learning Network Family Transitions Team and previously the Associate Dean with the University of Minnesota, Extension Center for Family Development. Karen is also the parent of two adult daughters, a grandmother, a spouse, and a cancer survivor.