Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16564 A Review of Research On Military Families and Schools

Sunday, January 15, 2012: 8:45 AM
McPherson Square (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Kris M. Tunac De Pedro, PhD Student, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Ron Avi Astor, PhD, Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Rami Benbenishty, PhD, Professor, Bar Ilan University & Haruv Institute, Ramat Gan, Israel
Joey Nuņez Estrada, PhD, Assistant Professor, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
Gabrielle R. De Joie Smith, Bachelor's of Arts Candidate, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Background and Purpose: The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have led to concerning psychological, behavioral, and academic outcomes for military students, including increased psychiatric hospitalizations and suicidal behaviors (Gorman, Eide, & Hisle-Gorman, 2010). Recent studies found that military students in civilian public schools have poor school adjustment and lower test scores (Angrist & Johnson, 2000; Engel, Gallagher, & Lyle, 2008). Supportive schools can play a significant role in protecting students from external risk factors such war and community violence (Astor, Benbenishty, & Estrada, 2009; Comer, 1996). However, there are no literature reviews or empirical studies examining military-connected schools and students. This is the first review of literature on military families and children relevant to military-connected schools that suggests future research directions pertaining to the education of military students.

Methods and Data Sources: A synthetic review of studies across academic disciplines was conducted. Peer-reviewed studies, literature reviews, and conceptual papers on military children and families since the Vietnam War were included. Book chapters, non-peer reviewed studies, and practitioner publications were excluded. Bibliography list searches and online search engines such as ERIC, PsycInfo, and GoogleScholar were utilized. Ninety-two studies met the inclusion criteria and were reviewed.

Results: Collectively, the review uncovered a wide variation in theoretical approaches, sampling strategy, research design, epistemologies, and findings. Studies were mostly conducted with convenience samples, while there was a lack of population samples. The review identified one popular belief, the persistent myth of the military family syndrome. The review also generated six research themes: child maltreatment, mental health, deployment, reintegration, war-related trauma of returning veterans, and military families in a shifting social context. Overall, studies found that during deployment and reintegration military children experience multiple stressors, including parental separation and increased household responsibilities. The stress of reintegration was exacerbated by the war-related trauma of the returning veteran, which contributed to negative psychological outcomes and secondary traumatization among military children. In addition, child maltreatment rates were higher among military families when compared to civilian families. However, mental health rates were mixed, but did not account for contextual factors, including war context, military branch and other factors. Also, it was found that military families have been in a shifting social context. The number of Reservist and National Guard families who reside in civilian communities comprise the majority of military families, however, they lack access to military-specific social supports.

Conclusions and Implications: The findings suggest that supportive military-connected schools are necessary for buffering military students against multiple stressors. Future directions in research and practice were identified: include military-connected students as a cultural group in State and Federal monitoring systems, infuse data and information on military families in university schools of education and professional development programs, explore how multiple transitions affect the social and academic functioning of military-connected students, integrate a supportive school climate for military families into theoretical frameworks of school reform research, conduct non-deficit oriented, non-clinical and epidemiologically normative studies, conduct international comparisons of military students and families for best practices and future research on military students.

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