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BYU Today

More Divorce For Combat Vets

By R. Burke Olsen, ’03

A new study by a BYU professor has found that combat veterans’ first marriages are 62 percent more likely to end in separation or divorce than other men’s, a fact he hopes will be considered by defense policymakers. 

“Traumatic experiences like combat seem to have a persistent impact on the ability of people to form and maintain successful relationships,” said Sven E. Wilson, ’89, an assistant professor of political science, whose study is reported in the academic journal Armed Forces & Society.

Surprisingly, marital dissolution rates are highest for Korean War veterans, not for Vietnam veterans as is commonly thought. Veterans who married following the Korean and Vietnam Wars had significantly higher rates of marital dissolution when compared to nonveterans and World War II veterans. 

Wilson says the results need to be interpreted in light of overall trends in marriage stability. “Starting in the ’60s and continuing through the early ’80s there was an unraveling of marriage and the social fabric in general,” said Wilson, who used data from the National Survey of Families and Households in his study. “For veterans it looks like this started much earlier than we would have anticipated.”