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How family structures and processes interrelate: The case of adolescent mental health and academic success in military families

APA Citation:

Arnold, A. L., Lucier-Greer, M., Mancini, J. A., Ford, J. L., & Wickrama, K. A. S. (2017). How family structures and processes interrelate: The case of adolescent mental health and academic success in military families. Journal of Family Issues, 38(6), 858–879. doi:10.1177/0192513x15616849

Abstract Created by REACH:

Children of military personnel may be more likely to have depression and academic challenges due to frequent military-related moves and stressors. This study examined the impact of family structure type and family interpersonal interactions on 995 adolescents' levels of depression and academic performance. Overall, findings revealed that less focus should be on type of family structure and more focus should be on how families interact to handle stressful events.


Mental health

Branch of Service:


Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Child of a service member or veteran
Military families


Childhood (birth - 12 yrs)
School age (6 - 12 yrs)
Adolescence (13 - 17 yrs)
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)


Empirical Study
Quantitative Study


Arnold, Amy L., Lucier-Greer, Mallory, Mancini, Jay A., Ford, James L., Wickrama, K. A. S.


The transitional nature of military life positions the family to serve as the primary and most stable influence for adolescents in military families. These military-related transitions and stressors may also put youth at risk for depression and academic challenges. This study examines the relative impact of family structure (family composition at a given time point) and family processes (interpersonal interactions developed over time) on important adolescent outcomes (depressive symptoms and academic performance) for a sample of military youth (N = 995). While family structure, particularly being part of a stepfamily or single-parent family, was related to greater depressive symptoms and poorer academic performance, family processes (family support and parent–adolescent connection) and personal resources (initiative) also accounted for depressive symptomology and academic performance. Importantly, when modeling family processes, no differences were found across family structures. Military youth thrive in diverse family forms in the presence of healthy family processes.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Sage Publications

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

University of Georgia, ALA
Florida State University, MLG
University of Georgia, JAM
University of Georgia, JLF
University of Georgia, KASW


military, family, adolescent, parent–child relations, depression, academic performance, well-being

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


US Department of Agriculture, US, Grant Number: 2009-48680-06069

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