Childhood adversity and its effects on military members’ health and readiness : the mediating and moderating effects of social support




Paine, Christopher Michael

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This cross-sectional study examined (a) the mediating role of several social pathways (i.e., unit cohesion, task cohesion, organizational support, positive and negative perceptions of officer and noncommissioned officer support, and anxiety in experiencing close relationships) on the relationship between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and service members’ mental health, and (b) the moderating effect of the aformentioned social support types on ACEs’ effect on service members’ mental health. A secondary analysis of data through structural equation modeling (SEM) and linear regression was conducted using responses from 1,285 active duty Army soldiers (1,137 males and 148 females) from a single brigade combat team (BCT) six months post-deployment. The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) provided the data. SEM demonstrated that the effects of ACEs on several mental health outcomes were consistently mediated by the perceptions of poor officer and noncommissioned officer leader support and positive officer leader support, and anxiety in experiencing close relationships, but buffered by organizational support. Linear regression analyses also demonstrated that ACE’s effects on various mental health outcomes was positively or negatively moderated by distinct types of military cohesion (e.g., positive and negative officer and noncommissioned officer leadership, organizational support, anxiety in experiencing close relationships) and military cohesion appears to have a more important moderating effect among women than for men (e.g., among women, the effect of ACE on aggressive behavior and PTSD decreased as positive NCO leader support increased; and the effect of ACE on alcohol problems increased as poor NCO leader support increased). These findings broaden knowledge about ACEs as a growing antecedent for mental health problems among service members, elucidate key mechanisms through which ACEs are linked to service members’ mental health risk, and demonstrate that distinct types of vertical cohesion (i.e., organizational and supportive leader support behaviors) appear to be robust health capacity builders and military strength-multipliers.



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