Cluster: Social Work Practice
Ruth Paris, PhD, Boston University
Dennis Orthner, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Saturday, January 16, 2010: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Pacific Concourse M (Hyatt Regency)
Symposium Theme: This symposium brings together social work scholars from four different institutions to present current research in the area of military service members and their families, including the identification of mental health, social support, and child development needs. Presentations incorporate the results of three different studies, and include both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. The first paper reports research findings from a cross-sectional study of Army National Guard women. Risk and protective factors over the course of the deployment cycle (pre, during, and post-deployment) were examined with regard to their relationship to resilience and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Results emphasize the role of resilience in mitigating posttraumatic stress symptom severity. The second paper focuses on the initial phase of a study to develop and test a home-based parenting program for service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who have children birth through five. Findings from qualitative interviews with service members and spouses highlight the many ways families cope with deployment separation and the strains of parenting after returning from war. The third and final paper reports on the development of a web-based assessment tool that examines Air Force members' perceptions of informal and formal support in their lives. Results demonstrate the strong internal reliability and construct validity of the instrument's core dimensions and offer important information for program development. After the presentations an expert on military families will serve as a discussant.
Importance: With increases in the frequency and duration of military deployments for Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF), the United States Armed Services has expanded its outreach to service members and their families. The development of new programs should be informed by timely research that details the needs and experiences of the diverse military population. Women now make up approximately 15% of active duty soldiers, yet there is a lack of research examining women's deployment experiences and their post-deployment mental health needs. Service members with young children are disproportionately represented among OIF/OEF families, but little is known about the strains of the deployment cycle for these parents and children, specifically the impact of combat stress on parenting. In addition, mounting programs to support military members and their families necessitate the development of new assessment tools in order to delineate the support needs of service members around the globe. Social workers are involved in the provision of mental health and social services for military members and veterans. Increasingly, they are also involved in the research to develop evidence-informed practice.
Implications: In order to effectively address the psychological and social support needs of military service members, social workers and other human service providers must be accurately informed about coping strategies that enable optimal functioning over the course of the deployment cycle and challenges that contribute to mental health and parenting difficulties. This symposium presents social work research, informed by trauma, resiliency, and developmental theory, which can be used by practitioners to develop programs aimed at mitigating the impact of combat stress and trauma on individuals and families.
* noted as presenting author