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Exploring the context of self-care for youth in military families

APA Citation:

Lucier-Greer, M., McCoy, M., Gale, J., Goetz, J. W., & Mancini, J. A. (2020). Exploring the context of self-care for youth in military families. Children and Youth Services Review, 108, 104599. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.104599

Abstract Created by REACH:

Previous research has suggested that youth who have higher amounts of unsupervised time (i.e., alone at home without an adult), termed “self-care,” report higher levels of anxiety. However, more recent findings suggest that self-care may facilitate developmentally appropriate autonomy in certain situations (e.g., when youth are older and/or have higher levels of self-efficacy). This study proposed that, for youth in military families, the context in which self-care occurs may influence the association between self-care and anxiety. Through the lens of Bronfenbrenner’s Process-Person-Context-Time (PPCT) model, data from 1,036 military-connected youth were examined to assess how processes (i.e., interactions between adolescents and their environments during self-care), person-level factors (i.e., age, self-efficacy, gender, race, having siblings), and contextual factors (i.e., interrelated systems in the adolescents’ environments) interact and are ultimately associated with youths’ anxiety levels.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Child of a service member or veteran


Childhood (birth - 12 yrs)
School age (6 - 12 yrs)
Adolescence (13 - 17 yrs)
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)


Cross-Sectional Study
Quantitative Study


Lucier-Greer, Mallory, McCoy, Megan, Gale, Jerry, Goetz, Joseph W., Mancini, Jay A.


Unsupervised time among youth, known as ‘self-care,’ has been linked to higher levels of anxiety. The issue of anxiety in self-care is especially salient for youth in military families, because childcare is an important issue for service member retention and focus. We hypothesized that self-care is an appropriate developmental task within certain contexts. Bronfenbrenner’s Process-Person-Context-Time (PPCT) framework was employed to explore bioecological factors that buffer the anxiety of military youth in self-care (N = 1036; mean age = 13.39 years old). Survey results were analyzed to identify factors that moderate the relationship between levels of self-care and anxiety using hierarchical regression analyses. Findings supported the study hypothesis, such that there was an initial positive relationship between more self-care and greater anxiety (e.g., time spent alone correlated with anxiety), and the relationship between self-care and anxiety was moderated when accounting for personal characteristics and context. Specifically, gender (being female) and age (being older) were associated with higher levels of anxiety. Additionally, self-efficacy and geographic location (living inside vs outside the continental US) had a moderating effect on the relationship between self-care and anxiety.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:


Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Auburn University, MLG
Institute of Personal Financial Planning, Kansas State University, MM
Department of Human Development and Family Science, University of Georgia, JG
Department of Financial Planning, Housing, and Consumer Economics, University of Georgia, JWG
Department of Human Development and Family Science, Virginia Tech, JAM


anxiety, bioecological theory, childcare, context, military, youth self-care

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


Funding for this research was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (NIFA award No. 2009-48680-06069, Jay A. Mancini, Principal Investigator).

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