Does Military Service Make a Difference in Domestic Violence Rates?

Multiple studies have shown that domestic violence rates are higher among military members than the civilian population. Cultural spillover theory has been given as a possible reason for the higher rate of violence.  This theory suggests cultures that hold higher levels of aggression as normal will experience more spillover of that aggression into areas where it doesn’t belong.

The military clearly has higher levels of aggression as part of its culture. Soldiers are trained to be aggressive in order to accomplish military goals of fighting the enemy. A military member may have a greater tendency to choose violence as a conflict resolution tactic in domestic arguments instead of other means of resolution, such as communication.

This isn’t to suggest that a military member has lost the ability to know right from wrong simply because they were trained to be aggressive. It does suggest that military members may be more prone to using violence due to the spillover of aggressive training into their personal life.

Based on the elevated violence rates for military members, it would be reasonable to assume that military veterans would also have an elevated level of violence; however, research showed that there was no significant difference in domestic violence rates between veterans and non-veterans.

After a 14 month study on a group of 5,418 veterans that were either married or cohabitating for at least one year, the study found that veteran status for even those who were exposed to combat did not significantly add to any form of domestic violence. Not only did being a veteran not add to the likelihood of domestic violence, it actually reduced the likelihood by 23%.

Domestic ViolenceFactors, other than veteran status, that did contribute to the likelihood of violence among couples included debt, unemployment (which adds fuel to the stress of debt), and working two jobs (probably the result of debt). Money problems cause an intense amount of stress that can hijack happiness, which is why it is also a primary cause of divorce.

Could it be that money problems are also directly linked to the higher levels of domestic violence for active duty? Military members, especially lower ranking enlisted members, make comparatively low wages. Low wages coupled with the stress of being in the military could easily combine to become a catalyst for losing one’s cool.

Couples with children also had a higher incidence of violence. Many lower ranking military members have families to support. Putting the stress of parenthood together with money problems and the stress of being in the military is certainly a possible cause of increased aggression.

Besides showing a lower rate of domestic violence for veterans, the study also found that older couples, couples with higher education, and couples with higher occupational prestige had lower rates of domestic violence.

Further studies need to be done to determine why the rates of violence are higher for military members and lower for veterans.  It was suggested that military service subsequently provides veterans a sense of personal responsibility and maturity which translates into lower aggression towards family members.

In addition to further studies, outreach efforts geared towards military families and veterans should always include information on how to manage money, as well as how to obtain help for financial problems.

The problems associated with stress must also be addressed. Even in low key positions, military service demands a great deal from military members and their families. New veterans can also experience stress as they adjust to their new lives.

Addressing potential triggers early-on can have a positive impact on a service member or veteran. Any effort is a worthy cause if it helps even one family avoid domestic upheaval.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Laura Samples

Laura Samples has over 18 years of law enforcement experience and currently serves as a police lieutenant in Texas. She is a graduate of the Leadership Command College from LEMIT at Sam Houston State University, a graduate of the Denver Paralegal Institute, and has earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management, from Fort Hays State University.She is also a veteran of the U.S. Army where she served as a Military Police Officer in both Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Laura Samples
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