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Adolescent difficulties during parental deployment and anxiety: A focus on measurement and family processes

APA Citation:

Sherman, H., O’Neal, C. W., Tidwell, A., & Lucier-Greer, M. (2023). Adolescent difficulties during parental deployment and anxiety: A focus on measurement and family processes. Child & Family Social Work, 28(4), 1110-1120. https://doi.org/10.1111/cfs.13030

Abstract Created by REACH:

This study examined the relationship between adolescent difficulties during a parent’s deployment and their subsequent anxiety symptoms during reintegration. Soldier fathers and civilian mothers from 204 Army families each reported their adolescent child’s difficulties during deployment and their anxiety symptoms during reintegration; adolescents also reported their own anxiety symptoms. As a first step, this study investigated whether parents reported similarly on their adolescent’s difficulties during deployment. Both parents’ (i.e., Service member fathers and civilian mothers) reports of adolescent difficulties during deployment were linked to their perceptions of adolescent anxiety symptoms during reintegration. Although parents reported similarly on their adolescent’s difficulties during deployment, these reports were not linked to the other parent’s or their adolescent’s report of anxiety symptoms during reintegration.


Mental health

Branch of Service:


Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member
Spouse of service member or veteran


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


Quantitative Study


Sherman, Haley, O'Neal, Catherine Walker, Tidwell, Allison, Lucier-Greer, Mallory


Approximately 60% of deployed service members leave behind immediate family members, and although military families tend to be adaptive and resilient, evidence suggests that deployments are challenging and difficulties can arise during transitions and family separation, especially for adolescents. Grounded in the family attachment network model and the ABC-X model of family stress, the current study utilized a sample of 204 military families with an active-duty father, civilian mother and adolescent and examined parents' perceptions of adolescents' difficulties during deployment in relation to all three family members' perceptions of the adolescents' mental health (i.e., anxiety symptoms) following deployment. First, analyses of measurement invariance indicated that service members and civilian parents were generally reporting on the same underlying construct of their adolescents' difficulties during parental deployment. Next, a structural equation model demonstrated considerable overlap in service member and civilian parent reports of their adolescents' difficulties during a parental deployment (r = 0.47). Finally, both parents' perceptions of adolescent difficulties during parental deployment were related to their own perceptions of the adolescent's current anxiety but not to the adolescents' reports of their own anxiety symptoms or to the other parent's report of the adolescents' anxiety symptoms. Findings provide support for utilizing these theories in combination, such that disruptions to the family system, and the attachment relationships within that system, in one stage of the deployment cycle, may imply that there are implications for individual-level functioning, namely, anxiety, in the next stage of the deployment cycle. Findings also underscore the importance of examining our measurement tools and collecting data from multiple family members to understand family processes.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Wiley Online

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Human Development and Family Science, Auburn University, HS
Department of Human Development and Family Science, University of Georgia, CWO
Department of Human Development and Family Science, Auburn University, AT
Department of Human Development and Family Science, Auburn University, MLG


adolescent difficulty, anxiety

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


Funding for this research was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA/NIFA): Award No. 2009-48680-06069 (PI: Jay A. Mancini) and Hatch project 1017588 (Mallory Lucier-Greer, Principal Investigator).

REACH Newsletter:

  September 2023

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