Abstract: A Mixed-Methods Examination of the Relationship between the Self and Adaptive Coping in Military Wives (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

386P A Mixed-Methods Examination of the Relationship between the Self and Adaptive Coping in Military Wives

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Amy Page, MSW, Doctoral student, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Abigail Ross, PhD, MPH, MSW, Assistant Professor, Fordham University, New York, NY
Phyllis Solomon, PhD, Professor, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Background and Purpose: Previous research indicates that identity correlates with use of specific coping strategies. Exploring the relationship between the self and coping in military wives is crucial to understanding methods for protecting themselves from negative effects of their lifestyle. The aim of this mixed-methods study was to examine the extent to which identity status, self-concept clarity, self-monitoring, role conflict, and mastery predicted military wives’ use of problem-focused and emotion-focused coping. It was hypothesized that military wives who endorsed the most mature identity status (“achieved”), higher degrees of self-concept clarity, self-monitoring, and mastery, and lower role conflict will report significantly greater use of more adaptive coping strategies. It was also hypothesized that greater levels of self-reported emotion-focused coping strategies in managing military lifestyle stressors will be significantly related to higher degrees of self-reported well-being. 

Methods: 202 participants, recruited via snowball sampling and internet-based outreach, completed an online survey containing standardized scales examining identity status, self-concept clarity, self-monitoring, mastery, and role conflict and two open-ended questions related to challenges and coping. Quantitative data was analyzed via multiple regression analysis. Qualitative questions explored ways these women perceived their senses of self influencing coping. Qualitative data utilized thematic analysis.

Results: Hypotheses were partially supported. Multiple regression analyses revealed that problem-focused coping significantly correlated with well-being (p < 0.01); correlations between emotion-focused coping and well-being did not reach significance. “Achieved” identity status and role conflict were significantly associated with emotion-focused coping (p < 0.01). “Moratorium” identity status and self-monitoring were significantly associated with problem-focused coping (p < 0.05 and p < 0.01, respectively). Neither self-concept clarity nor mastery predicted choice of coping mechanisms. Qualitative analysis indicated that participants view self-reliance, flexibility, acceptance, seeking social support, and cognitive reframing as helpful strategies.           

Conclusions and Implications: These findings suggest that problem-focused coping may be adaptive for military wives. Those with “moratorium” identity status and high self-monitoring may cope more adaptively with the lifestyle than others. Because “achieved” identity status and role conflict predicted only emotion-focused coping, those higher in these traits may cope less adaptively than their peers. Qualitative findings indicated that the following techniques helped military wives cope with the lifestyle: remaining open to personal evolution; implementing pragmatic responses to challenges associated with deployments; self-reliance in the face of wide-ranging challenges; attuning to social situations; and cognitive reframing of challenges. 

Findings present a picture of strong, capable, adaptable women. This study afforded them an opportunity to articulate the coping strategies they found useful. Findings contribute a vital perspective on factors that enhance adaptive coping in military wives. Social workers can therapeutically assist military wives as they reframe difficulties, identify ways to effect practical changes, and seek social support. Social workers need to support these women in exploring different facets of their identities and in remaining open to personal evolution. Finally, social workers can help these women to recognize and utilize the many strengths they have developed in response to navigating the military lifestyle.