The Experiences of Army Spouses Living Outside a Military Patch Community and the Implications on Wellbeing: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

  • Amy Burkill

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    While the majority of military families continue to relocate frequently and reside on an established military ‘patch’, there is a small but growing trend of families who prefer to remain stable in one location. These military families predominately live within their own
    homes, or private sector rentals amongst a civilian population often a considerable distance away from a military community. The introduction of MoD and government-led initiatives offering greater choice and stability suggests that a larger number of military families may become more geographically dispersed across the country in future. Despite the potential implications of such change, there is a lack of research on this topic area and little is known about those families who currently live in this way.

    This thesis presents a phenomenological study, which explored the lived experiences of army spouses who were residing, or who had resided outside of a military patch community and the implications that this potentiated for spousal wellbeing.

    The findings suggested that living outside a military patch community had both benefits and challenges that continuously needed to be balanced and re-evaluated. Benefits included stability and consistency, and a greater sense of autonomy and control. Challenges were particularly the impact of shorter but more frequent separations, and the experience of disconnection from the military community. Participants described a sense of loss to their military connections and that civilians lacked an understanding of the uniqueness of their lives. This resulted in feelings of isolation and loneliness. The military patch therefore became a place of multiple meanings, as interpreted by each participant. For many participants, a sense of suspension between two communities, neither of which they felt to be part of, was experienced. This potentiated a further loss in relation to their sense of
    place and purpose.

    Recommendations from these findings included the need for increased connection, support and information about the realities of residing outside a patch and some distance away from a military community. From a counselling psychology perspective, this thesis highlighted the unique experiences and needs of military families. Practitioners may benefit from a greater understanding of the unique challenges that military spouses face, which may be exacerbated when transitioning from and living outside a military patch community.
    Date of AwardJun 2022
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGina Dolan (Supervisor) & Roiyah Saltus (Supervisor)

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