Should I Stay or Should I Go? An Examination of the Effects of Work and Family Factors on Active-duty and National Guard and Reserve Service Members’ Military Career Intentions
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
Human Development and Family Science
Restriction TypeAuburn University Users
MetadataShow full item record
The Department of Defense (DoD) prioritizes the retention of military personnel to maintain a ready defense force and earn return on their investment of training highly skilled Service members. Prior research has examined how specific work-related factors, family related factors, and personal well-being impact Service members’ career intentions; however, the cumulative effects of the associations between these factors on military career intentions remains unclear. The current study examined the contributions of work-related factors (i.e., organizational support, morale), family-related factors (i.e., work-family balance, romantic relationship quality), and personal well-being (i.e., depressive symptoms) on career intentions among a sample of 3,506 Soldiers who participated in the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS). Path analysis was conducted to model the direct and indirect effects of work-related factors, family-related factors, and personal well-being on Soldiers’ intentions to remain in military service beyond their current service obligation and intentions to leave military service before the end of their service obligation if they were given the choice to do so. Additionally, a multigroup moderated path model was analyzed to assess whether the same factors emerge as important in predicting retention for active-duty Service members and National Guard and Reserve Service members. A path model assessing the direct and indirect contributions of work-family balance and unit support on Soldiers’ intentions to remain and intentions to leave through morale, relationship quality, and depressive symptoms demonstrated acceptable model fit (χ² = 267.752, df=32, p < 0.001; CFI = 0.960; TLI = 0.922; RMSEA = 0.047). The model accounted for 22.6% of the variance in intentions to remain and 17.1% of the variance in intentions to leave. The results revealed some significant direct and indirect effects of work-family balance and unit support on intentions to remain and intentions to leave through morale, relationship quality, and depressive symptoms. Importantly, morale served as a key mediator linking the effects of the other variables to military career intentions. Multigroup moderated mediation analysis demonstrated that there were differences in the contributions of work-related factors, family-related factors, and personal well-being to military career intentions based on whether Soldiers were active-duty versus National Guard or Reserve (Δ χ2 = 60.771, df = 30, p < 0.001). Greater unit support and work-family balance were associated with less severe depressive symptoms to a greater extent for active-duty Soldiers than National Guard or Reserve Soldiers. Similarly, greater unit support was associated with greater intentions to remain to a greater extent for National Guard or Reserve members than for active-duty Service members. Additional pathways approached statistically significant differences between these groups. The study results may inform military and family policy and resource development that is sensitive to differential experiences based on duty status for the DoD to promote retention and mission readiness among its personnel. Military family policies and trainings for unit leaders may facilitate a more supportive and family-friendly work environment for Service members. Service members may also utilize existing resources to address their morale (e.g., Morale, Welfare, and Recreation programs), romantic relationship quality (e.g., relationship education programs), and mental health conditions (e.g., clinical treatment). There were several limitations to the current study’s design. These include the restrictions of secondary data analysis, the use of some single-item measures, and the use of educational attainment as a proxy for rank. Future studies may enhance understanding of the contributions of work-related factors, family-related factors, and personal well-being to Service members’ military career intentions by using more descriptive, multi-item measures and measuring specific constructs of interest (e.g., rank).