Siblings of Military Servicemembers: A Qualitative Exploration of Individual and Family Systems Reactions


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

How does having a sibling in the military affect young adults? Despite increasing attention to the challenges faced by spouses and children of servicemembers, the siblings of servicemembers have been largely ignored. This qualitative investigation uses unstructured narratives to explore siblings’ perceptions of changes in their lives and changes in the family of origin associated with having a family member enlist in the United States military. Thematic analyses revealed an acute period of conflict followed by reorganization, awareness of the parents’ distress, changes in the emotional climate of the family, shifts in family roles, admiration for the military sibling, and increased meaning and purpose for the family following the servicemember’s enlistment. Computer-assisted text analyses revealed both positive and negative emotional content associated with the siblings’ military service. For professional psychologists who come into contact with siblings of servicemembers, it is important to recognize that military enlistment can have ripple effects and complicate other common individual and family stresses. More generally, it is important to provide siblings and the family of origin with information about what to expect during and after the servicemember’s enlistment, especially since these families may lack support and contact from others going through similar transitions.

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