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Military-related stress, self-efficacy, and anxiety: Investigating the role of marital quality in military couples

APA Citation:

Lucier-Greer, M., Frye-Cox, N., Reed-Fitzke, K., Ferraro, A. J., & Mancini, J. A. (2023). Military-related stress, self-efficacy, and anxiety: Investigating the role of marital quality in military couples. Family Process, 62(3), 1253-1271. https://doi.org/10.1111/famp.12833

Abstract Created by REACH:

A stress process framework and crossover perspective guided this study’s exploration of how an individual’s difficulty with managing military-related stress might relate both to their own and their spouse’s well-being. Responses from 243 military couples (i.e., Service members and their civilian spouses) were analyzed to investigate whether the difficulty Service members and spouses experienced in managing military-related stress was linked with their own and their spouse’s self-efficacy and, in turn, their own and their spouse’s anxiety. Marital quality was considered as a potential buffer against the impact of military stress within military couples. Overall, Service members and spouses who reported greater difficulty in managing military stress tended to report lower self-efficacy and, in turn, higher anxiety. Higher marital quality emerged as a protective factor for civilian spouses, especially regarding their self-efficacy, when they reported a lot of difficulty in dealing with military stress.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

Air Force
Marine Corps
Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Military families
Active duty service member
Spouse of service member or veteran
Child of a service member or veteran


Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Cross sectional study


Lucier-Greer, Mallory, Frye-Cox, Nick, Reed-Fitzke, Kayla, Ferraro, Anthony J., Mancini, Jay A.


This study utilizes a stress process framework in conjunction with a crossover perspective to conceptualize how stress, specifically military-related stress, manifests within individuals and couples. An actor–partner interdependence mediation modeling approach was used in a cross-sectional sample of 243 military couples to examine whether difficulties managing military-related stress may erode one's own self-efficacy and, in turn, contribute to greater anxiety (actor effects) and/or one's partner's self-efficacy and, in turn, anxiety (partner effects). Further, the potential moderating impact of marital quality was explicated in the model to understand if greater marital quality might buffer the impact of military-related stress. There was support for the stress process model primarily regarding actor effects; fewer partner effects emerged. One's own perceptions of military-related stress, specifically higher stress, were related to lower levels of their own self-efficacy, and, consequently, higher anxiety, but military-related stress did not directly affect the partner's self-efficacy or anxiety. Both service members' and civilian spouses' marital quality had ramifications for civilian spouses' self-efficacy, specifically a buffering effect; that was not the case regarding civilian spouse effects on the military member. Findings point to specific ways in which military stressors have implications for personal well-being, the role of a strong couple relationship in buffering stress, especially for civilian spouses, and concomitant leverage points for supporting both individual and couple well-being.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Wiley Online

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Human Development and Family Science, Auburn University, MLG
Human Sciences and Design, Baylor University, NFC
Couple and Family Therapy, University of Iowa, KRF
Applied Human Sciences, Kansas State University, AJF
Human Development, Virginia Tech, JAM
Human Development and Family Science, The University of Georgia, JAM


anxiety, couples, dyadic data analysis, military, moderated medication, stress

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


USDA NIFA Award No. 2009-48680-06069 (PI: Dr. Jay A. Mancini). USDA NIFA Hatch Project No. ALA044-1-18032 (PI: Dr. Mallory Lucier-Greer).

REACH Newsletter:

  April 2023

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