This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

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




Cave, Carlie

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Human Development and Family Studies


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 stressors that are context-specific and emerge in relation to a parent’s military career (e.g., parental deployment, constant school transitions, enlisted parent, two parents in the military, living outside of the continental United States, and living 30+ minutes from a military base). Using a stress process and cumulative risk lens, this study examined the relationship between the accumulation of risk factors and youth outcomes, specifically self-efficacy and depressive symptomology, and accounts for the role of family as a coping resource as a buffer between risk and adverse outcomes (N = 1,036 youth in military-connected families). This design provided the foundation for examining whether family processes, specifically turning toward one’s family in difficult situations, served as a protective factor for military-connected youth. In addition, this study accounted for gender differences and developmental considerations to determine whether findings were applicable to males and females as well as younger and older youth. Higher levels of cumulative risk were associated with lower levels of self-efficacy and higher levels of depressive symptomology. The relationship between cumulative risk and outcomes did not differ based on gender. When examining cumulative risk and age, there were no group differences among older and younger youth for self-efficacy. There was, however, a trend in which older youth reported higher levels of depressive symptomology than younger youth in the context of risk. Turning to family as a coping resource buffered the effects of risk on self-efficacy, but this finding did not exist for depressive symptomology. A discussion on cumulative risk and recommendations for assisting youth are included for parents and practitioners.