Military and nonmilitary stressors associated with mental health outcomes among female military spouses

Kathrine S. Sullivan, Yangjin Park, Lyndon A. Riviere

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This study uses a stress process framework and person-centered methods to describe patterns of concurrent stressors across multiple domains and to associate patterns with female military spouse mental health. Background: Most military families are resilient. However, a subset of military spouses experiences adverse outcomes in the context of war-related stress. To date, a focus on military-specific stressors has largely obscured the effects of stress unrelated to military service on the well-being of military spouses. Methods: Data were drawn from a 2012 survey of 343 U.S. Army spouses, measuring intrapersonal (e.g., adverse childhood experiences), family (e.g., work–family conflict), and military stressors (e.g., cumulative deployments). Outcomes included moderate or more severe depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Results: The three-step method of latent class analysis identified three classes: low (58.86% of participants), moderate (21.62%), and high (19.52%) stress. Prevalence of mental health problems was significantly elevated in the high-stress class. In this group, 35.3%, 36.3%, and 39.5% of spouses' screenings indicated at least moderate depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptomatology, compared with 3.0%, 3.9%, and 2.7% in the low-stress group. Conclusions: Results suggest many military spouses have low stress exposure across domains and low rates of mental health symptoms. However, a subset of spouses may experience both intrapersonal and family-level risk associated with elevated rates of mental health problems. Implications: Findings highlight the critical role of nonmilitary stressors in the lives of military spouses and the importance of assessing for and providing support to spouses around these issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-388
Number of pages18
JournalFamily Relations
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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