Methods: Source of Data: Data for the study came from the 2011 Air Force Community Assessment, a representative community assessment with over 300 survey items. Sample: The final analytical sample included 5,281 active-duty Air Force members (83% male) who had at least one child, were in a committed couple relationship, and indicated perpetrating at least one form of family maltreatment. Measures: The focal outcome was an ordinal measure of the intention to seek counseling or mental health services in the next three months. Sets of observed indicators were used to model exogenous and mediational latent constructs representing each of the following: unit leader support, unit peer support, neighbor support, career stigma, unit-based stigma, sense of community, and perceived barriers. Analysis: Structural equation modeling was used to specify latent constructs, handle measurement error, and analyze hypothesized direct and indirect structural paths. A means- and variance-adjusted weighted least squares estimator was used, standard errors were corrected for potential within-base clustering, and sampling weights were used to derive representative model parameters.
Results: The final model yielded acceptable fit (CFI = .98; TLI = .98; RMSEA = .02). Results indicated that unit leader support was significantly associated with each perceptual factor, namely career stigma (β = -.50), unit-based stigma (β = -.68), sense of community (β = .30), and perceived barriers (β = -.51). Unit leader support was also directly, although marginally, associated with members’ intention to seek services (β = .20, p = .06). Career stigma was significantly associated with members’ intention to seek services (β = -.09), yielding a significant indirect association between unit leader support and intention to seek services (b = .06, p < .001).
Conclusions and Implications: In the context of family maltreatment perpetration, our results point to members’ perceptions of unit leader support as an important correlate of their intention to seek remedial services, both directly and indirectly via members’ perceptions about career-related stigma associated with help-seeking behavior. Efforts should be exerted to promote high levels of unit leader support in an effort to cultivate an environment where active-duty members who are exhibiting problematic behaviors are more likely to seek out needed services.