ResearchPublications

Association between cumulative risk and protective factors with mental distress among female military spouses
Abstract

OBJECTIVE: Guided by a resilience framework, this study examines the accumulation of risk and protective factors, as well as the potential buffering effects of protective factors on mental distress among female military spouses.

BACKGROUND: Most research with this population has focused on individual risk factors affecting military spouses. Less frequently have the effects of cumulative risk, risk factors not specifically associated with military service, or protective factors been examined, though there is evidence for their importance.

METHOD: This study used secondary survey data from 334 female Army spouses collected in 2012 as part of the Land Combat Study 2. Cumulative risk and protective factor scores as well as scores within risk (intrapersonal, family, and military-specific) and protective (individual and environmental) factor domains were calculated. Four structural equation models were run to examine main and interaction effects on mental distress, a latent variable representing depression, anxiety, and trauma symptoms.

RESULTS: In cumulative risk and protective factor models, cumulative risk was directly, positively associated with mental distress. This relationship was moderated by cumulative protection. In domain-specific models, only family risk was directly associated with mental distress. This relationship was moderated by environmental protective factors.

CONCLUSION: Findings indicate mental distress among military spouses is associated with exposure to cumulative risk and attenuated by the presence of certain domains of protective factors. Family risk factors including marital distress and work-family conflict may be particularly pernicious stressors, but informal and structural supports may be important targets for prevention and intervention efforts.

Full citation:
Sullivan KS, Park Y, Cleland CM, Merrill JC, Clarke-Walper K, Riviere LA (2021).
Association between cumulative risk and protective factors with mental distress among female military spouses
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry [Epub 2021 Aug 5]. doi: 10.1037/ort0000579.