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  • Writer's pictureKeiana Winters

The Military Family

The military culture consists of a specific language, cultural norms, belief systems, and protocols, which requires an acculturative process for both the members and their families. The concept of culture can move beyond the constructs of race and ethnicity. Cultures are “those sets of shared worldviews, meanings, and adaptive behaviors derived from simultaneous membership and participation in a variety of context, such as a language; rural, urban, or suburban setting; race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status; age, gender, religion, nationality; employment, education and occupation, political ideology, stage of acculturation” (Falicov, 2013, p. 32). The military, regardless of individual categorizations, has a collective and developed way of communicating with symbolism, that is foreign to non-military members, behaviors that are specific to the military and understood only to those within the group and their families, and a hierarchical structure that supports their values and beliefs (Foynes, Shepperd, Harrington, 2013; Greene, Buckman, Dandeker, & Greenberg, 2010; Johansen, Laberg, & Martinussen, 2013;Strom et al., 2012; Suzuki & Kawakami, 2016). The Military meets the criteria for being a culture.

Acculturation theory states that the acculturation process takes place when individuals of one culture come into continuous and first-hand contact with a new culture resulting in changes in the original cultural patterns of either or both groups (Suzuki & Kawakami, 2016). Initial models of acculturation result in assimilation to the mainstream or dominant culture (Rivera, 2008). In terms of the military, the civilian family must assimilate into military culture. Military acculturation or assimilation can cause acculturative stress, which may lead to increased feelings of anger and depression.

Military members and their families are at risk for depression, anxiety, self-harm, substance use disorder, traumatic and stress-related disorders, issues during reintegration and deployment, and relationship problems (Carrola, & Corbin-Burdick, 2015;Daniels, 2017; Foynes, Shepperd, & Harrington, 2013, Huang& Kashubeck-West, 2015;Suzuki & Kawakami, 2016). According to Cary (2007), clinicians are often unsure of how to work with clients in the context of their culture, and it can result in unintended discrimination. Bonura and Lovald (2015) postulate that familiarity with cultural norms, structure, and regulations aids those who work with military service members and families more effectively. According to Sue and Sue (2012), Culture should consistently be assessed because it can affect the counseling experience and therapeutic process. There are specific implications and interventions for individuals working with military families that should be evaluated during the therapeutic process and professional environments.

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