Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

National Guard families live in two different worlds. On the one hand, they are civilians with civilian jobs. On the other hand, they are also part of the military that can be activated at any time. Living in these two worlds simultaneously affects these families differently than families who live either entirely in the civilian world or the military world. The purpose of this qualitative study was to take an ethnographic look at how National Guard families navigate and adapt to these conditions. This study utilized three methods of data collection: analysis of self-help books aimed at helping military spouses through the military lifestyle, observations of Yellow Ribbon events held throughout the state aimed at helping National Guard couples with the reintegration process, and interviews with National Guard couples who had experienced at least one deployment while married. The first major theme that emerged from the analysis of the self-help books and observations were the cultural and institutional discourses that perpetuated and reinforced a 1950’s family ideology of separate spheres for men and women. Through these books, women were being taught how to live up to the culturally accepted standard of a Super Spouse, while men were spoken of in terms of being a soldier with little to no responsibilities at home. The second major theme found that the lived experiences of National Guard families reflected that 1950’s family ideology but this standard caused spouses to have feelings of being overwhelmed during deployments, especially with a perceived lack of support from the National Guard. The last theme focused on the experiences of soldiers and their spouses upon reintegration, which included encounters with boundary ambiguity, difficulties in communication, and issues with drug and alcohol. However, the majority of these couples did show resilience by managing to keep their marriages together despite the obstacles they underwent.

Committee Chair

Berkowitz, Dana

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