Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 5, pp 1313–1325 | Cite as

The Extent and Correlates of Stressors Experienced by At-risk Youths in a Military-style Residential Program

  • Nora E. CharlesEmail author
  • Shari R. Reiter
  • Christopher T. Barry
Original Paper



The aim of this study was to assess lifetime exposure to stressful life events among youths residing in a military-style program for at-risk adolescents. Both the types of stressors reported and the associations between youths’ exposure to stressors and problematic behaviors such as substance use and misconduct were examined.


Exposure to stressful life events was assessed among 417 adolescents (87% male; 60% White; aged 16–19) using a self-report measure that allowed for the categorization of stressors into general types. Additional measures include self-reported substance use and program reports of youths’ disciplinary infractions.


Descriptive data about the nature and number of stressful life events reported by the total sample and demographic subgroups is reported. Regression models including race and cumulative stressful life events revealed that White race and greater exposure to stressors were associated with more frequent alcohol, X2 (3) = 37.99, p < 0.001, and marijuana, X2 (3) = 21.24, p < 0.001 use, as well as indicators of substance use-related problems. A model using these same variables predicted count of disciplinary infractions, X2 (3) = 180.39, p < 0.001. When types of infractions were examined individually, several race by stress interactions indicate that non-White youths with high exposure to stressors are particularly likely to receive infractions.


These findings provide descriptive information about stressors experienced by an understudied but at-risk population of youths. Additionally, they support the notion that history of exposure to stressful life events is related to externalizing behaviors during adolescence.


Stress Adolescence Externalizing Stressful life events Substance use Institutional misconduct 



The authors wish to thank Laura Hansen, Paula Floyd, and Bailee Brewer for their assistance with data collection. Additionally, we wish to thank the residential program staff and participants for their involvement in this research.

Author Contributions

N.C.: designed and executed the study, completed primary data analyses, and contributed to literature review and writing. S.R.: contributed to literature review, analysis, and writing. C.B.: collaborated with the design of the study, as well as editing of the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional review board at The University of Southern Mississippi and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent, or participant assent and guardian informed consent for minors, was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe University of Southern MississippiHattiesburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA

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