Parenting in Military Families: Stability and Change in a UK Context

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Mandy WINTERTON, Edinburgh Napier University, United Kingdom
Russell MARTINDALE, Edinburgh Napier University, United Kingdom
Paula GLOVER, QinetiQ, United Kingdom
This paper reports on a study of military families conducted across the UK in 2014-16. It comprised of focus groups with serving UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) personnel, and a diary study amongst a selection of military spouses. Families of interest were those who had chosen to live ‘off-base’ (i.e. not on housing schemes on or near military bases, provided by MOD). It sought to understand reasons for living off-base, and the implications for welfare support and familial wellbeing. The study revealed families negotiating the needs of the military, and their personal fulfilment, and offers insight into the lives of a significant proportion of UK families, who are vastly underrepresented in both academic and policy circles.

The study revealed the impact of cultural change with respect to gender roles and expectations. For example, male serving personnel sought and felt, a greater emotional proximity to their families whilst away from home. This is because social media and ICT are able to traverse the temporal and geographical divide that military service regularly demands. However opportunities for greater paternal involvement could be curtailed by institutional needs or culture, and this could heighten the awareness of absence for serving parents. Expectations for spouses’ rights to a career was evident and proximity to maternal families for support could be a reason to live off-base. However, narratives of independence and support were complex and contradictory. Careers and/or independence was hard won and the loss of informal support and shared understanding from other military wives was sometimes keenly felt.

The paper will foreground the changing demands and forms of the military and of the family in a contemporary UK context. It will consider what this means for individual and familial wellbeing and resilience, and the implications for those living within and also outside of a military base.