Method: 228 married or cohabitating heterosexual couples were selected from a randomized controlled trial of a parenting program targeting post-deployed military families. Couples were men who had served in National Guard /Reserve (NG/R) units and their non-deployed spouses. The majority of couples were married (97.8%), with a few couples cohabitating (2.2%). The duration of marital relationships ranged from 1 to 28 years (M = 9.95 years; SD = 5.3). An actor-partner interdependence model using M-plus allowed estimation of the actor and partner mediation effects of depressive symptoms on the relationship between life events stress and couple relationship satisfaction. Treatment effect, men’s combat exposure, total duration of deployments in months, years of marriage, number of children, and income were entered into the model as covariates.
Results: A good model fit was obtained: χ2 (24) = 30.90, p = .157, CFI = .986, RMSEA = .036, SRMR = .021. There was a statistically significant indirect mediation effect of deployed husbands’ depressive symptoms at 6-month follow up between their life events stress at baseline and their non-deployed spouses’ relationship satisfaction at 1-year follow up, b = -.031, p = .043. There was a marginally significant indirect mediation effect of deployed husbands’ depressive symptoms at 6-month follow up between their life events stress at baseline and their relationship satisfaction at 1-year follow up, b = -.027, p = .065.
Conclusion: This study provided evidence for the mediation effect of men’s depressive symptoms on the relationship between men’s life events stress and women’s couple relationship satisfaction. Although the actor effect was marginally significant, the significant partner effect reveals the importance of understanding life events stress experienced by deployed men and the mechanism of dyadic influence from men to women. The findings emphasize the importance of understanding the effects of deployed-husbands’ life events stressors and emotional distress on couples relationships when implementing prevention-focused family interventions for military families.