Maternal Employment Fit for Military Spouses: Implications for Attitudes Toward the Military, Individual Well-Being, and Family Functioning

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Development and Family Science


Matthew Mulvaney


family outcomes;maternal employment;military spouses;well-being;work-family conflict


Research on military spouse employment indicates military spouses are more likely to be unemployed than their civilian peers and those spouses who are employed make less than their civilian counterparts. The military context can make finding employment challenging due to geographic mobility, cultural norms and expectations, and separations from service members, family, and friends. This study explored differences in individual, family, and military related outcomes based on employment fit, or the actual and desired employment status and the correspondence between them, among spouses of active-duty service members. This study is informed by theoretical perspectives centered in role theory and the bioecological model. Secondary data analyses were conducted using a convenience sample of 495 female active-duty spouses with children who participated in two online surveys of military families conducted in 2019. The results find that the lack of employment fit seems to confer significant risk across varied outcomes for mothers who are spouses of active-duty services members. Military spouses lacking employment fit were more stressed and socially isolated, and scored lower on measures of well-being, sense of belonging to their local civilian community, and economic security than respondents who had employment fit. Employment fit was associated with individual well-being, social isolation, stress, and sense of belonging to their local civilian community. Well-being, social isolation, perceptions of economic security, and sense of belonging to the civilian community each mediated the relationship between employment fit and family closeness, stress, and likelihood to recommend military service. The findings highlight the significant role of employment fit for military spouses and suggest an important entry point for future research and intervention.


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