Saturday, January 14, 2012: 11:00 AM
McPherson Square (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Airmen serving in the U.S. Air Force have made significant contributions to the overall war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Deployment, combat exposure, and subsequent combat-related mental health issues can have effects that extended beyond the airmen to the family. The primary aim of this study was to determine the path through which such effects occur within the context of risk and protective factors. The risk factors identified in this study were: deployment length and frequency and psychological symptomology. The construct of social support was also examined as an identified protective factor. This study examined the relationships between all of these variables using regression, moderation and mediation. Method: Secondary data were obtained from the Air Force Community Assessment, a large-scale, anonymous survey fielded in the spring of 2008 from a stratified random sample of active duty airmen. Results: Long and repeated deployments slightly increased the likelihood of the presence of both posttraumatic and depressive symptoms (.6% of variance explained in the variable deployment length and .5% in variable deployment frequency, p< .001). Furthermore, as psychological symptoms increase, there is a decrease in the quality of family relationships (7.2% of the variance explained in variable spousal relationships and 9.7% of the variance explained in the variable parent-child relationships, both statistically significant at p< .001). Social support was found to have a slightly moderating effect on the relationship between the deployment factors and both spousal and parent–child relationships (2.3% of the variance explained in both spousal and parent-child relationships, statistically significant at p< .001). Finally, this study examined the roll of psychological symptomology as a mediator between the variables deployment length/frequency and family relationships (spousal and parent-child). Findings demonstrate the strongest support for psychological symptomology (posttraumatic stress and depressive) as a mediator for the relationship between deployment length and spousal relationships. Findings were less conclusive and did not point toward mediation, for the relationship between deployment frequency and spousal relationships mediated by either type of psychological symptomology; i.e. posttraumatic stress of depressive. In addition, psychological symptomology did not mediate the relationship between both deployment length and frequency and parent-child relationships. This is, in part, a notable finding because “deployment frequency” has been a significant hallmark of the OIF and OEF conflicts; much emphasis has been placed on both deployment length and deployment frequency in the context of the current OIF and OEF war efforts. The current data demonstrate more implications for deployment length compared to frequency when predicting outcomes related to family relationships.
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