The Story Behind the Survey
In 2010, I came across a research dissertation called “The Military Experience: Perceptions from Senior Military Officers’ Wives” by Dr. Henrietta McGowen1 that found a correlation between increased symptoms of isolation and depression in spouses as their service member was promoted in rank. At one point, the research compared the feelings of many senior spouses to those of a pastor’s spouse. In that moment, I realized that we, chaplain spouses, may have a “double whammy” of expectations and burdens that we carry.
In 2015, a pilot version of this survey was developed by more than 20 other chaplain spouses to see if these expectations or burdens existed and whether they felt isolated. Based on McGowan’s research, it also measured how our most “seasoned” spouses were doing and what their needs are. Chaplain spouses from every branch and rank were invited to answer questions on activities, volunteer roles, home and marriage life, concerns about emotional and mental health, and much more.
After the survey in 2015, I traveled to various installations as the 2015 AFI Military Spouse of the Year. I led Chaplains Spouse Roundtables, discussed the results of the survey, and talked with many of our most senior spouses. I found that discussions in safe circles validated much of the results in the 2015 pilot survey. I also found that processing both the burdens and joys of this lifestyle freed many up to continue in their ministry. The 2016 survey used the 2015 pilot as a foundation as well as new questions aimed to find areas of need and improvement. Once completed, a Board of military spouses was brought together to help interpret the results of the survey and offer recommendations. The Board consisted of spouses that have 5-35 years of military experience, vary in service branches, and also included another clinician and clinical researcher. Variety of experience and expertise offered as much non-biased recommendations as possible. It is my intent and hope that the results of this survey will be used to develop ministry or resources to support the chaplain community. Based on the survey results and discussions with the Board, our community is resilient but in need of far more support.
The full sized 2016 Anonymous Survey Chaplain Spouse report includes the following
• Graphs and detailed data from the survey
• Open ended questions submitted by participants
• Key questions from the results for further study
• Conclusions and recommendations for serving chaplain families
• Resources currently available for chaplain families