First Advisor

Eileen Brennan

Date of Publication

Summer 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work and Social Research


Social Work




Families of military personnel -- Sociological aspects, Single parents -- Social aspects, Single-parent families -- Sociological aspects, Work-life balance -- Social aspects, United States. Air Force -- Sociological aspects



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 178 p.)


Today, raising children under the best of circumstances represents a daunting endeavor as any parent and a growing body of research confirm. When a single parent is on active duty in one of the U.S. armed forces, there are additional challenges involved that may not exist among civilian counterparts. The phenomenon of single parents on active duty with its unique difficulties associated both with single parenting and with military service was the basis of this study. The purpose of the research was twofold: to describe the experiences of Air Force single parents as related to social support and work-life theory in the context of bureaucracy and to use that understanding to identify needed improvements in support services. The specific aim of this study was to gain an understanding of single parents in the military through a phenomenological approach. Purposive sampling was utilized to identify the 13 participants. The central question for the study was the following: What are the experiences of single parents serving on active duty in the United States Air Force? The seven themes that were identified as part of the single parent experience were: (a) transition to single parent in the Air Force, (b) better life (c) parental responsibilities, (d) work responsibilities, (e) support provided by the work organizations, (f) informal social supports, and (g) work-life conflict. Major findings include the importance of family-friendly supervisors that alleviated work-family conflict. Participants also noted the military family as being significant to their adjustment and acceptance of military life. Finally, participants were seeking a better life for themselves and their children by either joining as a single parent or deciding to stay as a single parent. This study offers an opportunity to change policy and practice to enhance and encourage the retention of single parents. One application of study findings is the reexamination of the Family Care Plan to alleviate work-family conflict. Another area identified for practice enhancement is the education and training of family-friendly supervisors.


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