Psychological resilience as a longitudinal process is highly relevant for understanding the functioning outcomes of military populations. Here, we review the extant literature on resilience among military service members, focusing on National Guard Soldiers. Our specific project (Advancing Research on Mechanisms of Resilience, “ARMOR”) aims to develop a comprehensive model of resilience using a multilevel perspective. We report results from our prospective pilot study (n = 103) conducted in preparation for our large-scale longitudinal cohort study of basic combat training (BCT) and its impact on military recruits’ wellbeing. Results support feasibility of the larger study, evidence for a new measure of BCT stressor exposure, and demonstrate preliminary associations with BCT-related stressors and longitudinal changes in adaptive functioning. Future directions for our larger study will utilize data from survey responses, structured clinical interviews, neurobehavioral tasks, and neurobiological measures (functional and structural MRI and electroencephalography [EEG]) to examine individual differences in self-regulation as a predictor of resilience-related processes. ARMOR is well positioned to elucidate mechanisms that could be targeted for promoting wellbeing, preventing psychopathology, and facilitating long-term recovery.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Our team has conducted a series of prospective, longitudinal cohort studies funded by the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Veterans Affairs, and National Institutes of Health (NIH) investigating resilience among National Guard Soldiers and their families. These studies include four methodological features: (1) assessment of baseline functioning prior to a uniform challenge (e.g., combat deployment), (2) characterization of individuals’ exposure to specific challenges (e.g., deployment-related stressor dosage), (3) repeated post-challenge assessments of multiple outcome domains over time (e.g., PTSD symptoms, depression, alcohol use), and (4) individual difference predictors of outcome trajectories (e.g., personality traits, social contextual factors). Using growth mixture modeling (GMM) procedures, we have found distinct trajectories for Soldiers and their spouses/partners across domains of PTSD symptoms, depression, and alcohol use problems (Erbes et al., ; Polusny et al., ). A trajectory characterized by stable, low symptoms or adaptive functioning (resilience) was most common. Moreover, evidence has consistently supported the role ofpersonality (especially positive emotionality [PEM] and negative emotionality [NEM]), social support, prior stressors, and stressor exposure in predicting membership in the resilient trajectory classes.
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