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Examining Impacts of Cumulative Risk on Military-Connected Youth and the Role of Family in Coping

Abstract

Background

Youth in military families are confronted with stressors that are normative (e.g., racial or ethnic minority status, non-married family structure, social isolation) and context-specific in relation to a parent’s military career (e.g., parental deployment, school transitions, parent rank, dual military parents, living outside of the continental United States, living 30+ min from a military base). This study applied a stress process and cumulative risk lens to examine the impact of cumulative risk on military-connected youth outcomes accounting for contextual factors such as gender, age, and family.

Objective

First, this study examined the relationship between cumulative risk and two outcomes, self-efficacy and depressive symptomology. Then, gender differences, developmental considerations, and the role of family were examined to determine whether any of these factors buffered or exacerbated the relationship between risk and adverse outcomes.

Methods

Data were collected from military-connected youth (N = 1036) between the ages of 11 and 18. Multiple regression and moderation analyses were conducted.

Results

Higher levels of cumulative risk were associated with lower levels of self-efficacy and higher levels of depressive symptomology. Few differences were found based on gender or age; however, a trend in which older youth reported higher levels of depressive symptomology than younger youth in the context of risk emerged. Turning to family as a coping resource buffered the effects of risk on self-efficacy, but this finding did not exist for depressive symptomology.

Conclusion

Youth who are able to turn to their family when they are overwhelmed by stressors are more likely to experience a protective or buffering effect, especially with regard to self-efficacy.

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Access to Data

The corresponding author takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

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Funding

This study was funded, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Grant Number 2009-48680-06069) (PI: Jay A. Mancini).

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Correspondence to Carlie Kaeppler.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Kaeppler, C., Lucier-Greer, M. Examining Impacts of Cumulative Risk on Military-Connected Youth and the Role of Family in Coping. Child Youth Care Forum 49, 581–602 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-020-09544-7

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Keywords

  • Coping
  • Cumulative risk
  • Family
  • Military
  • Youth