Adolescents in military families may be at increased risk for psychopathologies because they are simultaneously exposed to both normative developmental stressors and the challenges of the military lifestyle. Currently, there is a paucity of research on the specific risks and protective factors related to the well-being of adolescents in families of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). Accordingly, there were three primary objectives in this doctoral research: (1) to examine the perceptions of adolescents in CAF families about the challenges they experience as compared to adolescents in non-military families; (2) to investigate the associations among exposure to frequent relocation and deployment, affective reactivity to relocation and deployment, adolescent-parent relationships and peer relationships, and well-being; and (3) to explore the potential moderating roles of adolescents’ parent and peer relationships in the relations between exposure/affective reactivity to military stressors and well-being.
Participants were N = 201 adolescents (117 females, 81 males, 3 did not indicate), aged 14 – 19 years (Mage = 16.44, SD = 1.59) from Regular Force CAF families. Participants reponded to an open-ended question about the challenges they believed they experienced in comparison to adolescents in non-military families. In addition, participants completed assessments of their affective reactivity to relocation and deployment, the quality of their relationships with parents and peers, and their well-being. Results from thematic analysis revealed that frequent relocation as well as frequent and lengthy deployment were perceived as the main challenges that adolescents believed their counterparts in non-military families did not experience. Results from correlational analyses and hierarchical linear regressions revealed that exposure to frequent relocation and deployment were not significantly associated with adolescents’ well-being. However, heightened affective reactivity to relocation and deployment were both negatively associated with well-being. Further, at higher levels of positive adolescent-parent relationships, the negative relation between reactivity to deployment and well-being was attenuated (i.e., buffering effect). Results are discussed in terms of the similarities and differences to adolescents in US military families and adolescents’ in non-military families. Recommendations are offered on strategies to reduce the risks associated with the military lifestyle and enhance adolescents’ well-being.