Effects of Interventions With Military-Connected Students: A Systematic Review
Military-connected students, accounting for over 1.2 million school-aged children, are dependents of military service members who attend public or private elementary or secondary schools. They face unique stresses related to military life and culture including high mobility, parental deployment and reintegration, and the potential for parental injury or death. These stresses can influence academic functioning and performance and psychological and behavioral health. Some research suggests that schools can serve as protective settings that provide or facilitate supports for military-connected students. To date, no known systematic review has been conducted examining the effects of school-based interventions with military-connected students. The purpose of this systematic review is to examine the effects of school-based interventions on the well-being of military-connected students.
Systematic review methodology, using the Campbell Collaboration’s guidelines, was employed to retrieve and analyze studies examining effects of school-based interventions with military-connected students. A comprehensive search strategy was implemented to locate published and unpublished studies. The search strategy included 11 electronic bibliographic databases and research registers (e.g. ERIC, PsychInfo, Military and Government Collection, Cochrane Databases), websites of relevant government and university research centers, and reference lists of retrieved studies and related articles. Additional efforts were also employed to find unpublished, or “gray”, literature, which included contacting first-authors of published studies and other researchers and universities known to have military research institutes. Inclusion criteria included: (a) Randomized or quasi-experimental design; (b) Published between January 1990 and March 2013; (c) Conducted in a public or private school setting (pre-K-12); (d) Pre-K-12 students whose parents are active duty or veteran of a branch of a military; and (e) Involved interventions to assist students with parental deployment, parental reintegration, parental military related trauma or death, or frequent moves. Two of the authors independently coded all of the qualifying studies. Effect sizes were calculated using Comprehensive Meta- Analysis 2.0 software.
The search yielded 536 potential studies. Of those, 22 were retrieved in full text and further screened. The final sample consisted of one unpublished dissertation employing a quasi-experimental design testing the effects of a six-session group intervention with 65 elementary students whose parent had been deployed. Effects on anxiety (g=0.38; 95% CI, -.12 to .86) and self-esteem (g=0.25; 95% CI, -.24 to .74) were small, but not significantly different from zero. Moderate and significant effects were found for externalizing behavior (g=0.65; 95% CI .08 to 1.22) while moderate, but non-significant effects were found for internalizing behavior (g=0.51; 95% CI, -.6 to 1.07).
This systematic review is the first to examine effects of school-based interventions to address issues experienced by military-connected students. The paucity of intervention research in this area is surprising given the increased awareness and research on the stresses and impacts of military deployment and other unique stressors related to military life on children. The results of this systematic review support the need for the development of evidence-supported interventions that address the needs of military-connected students. Implications for policy and practice will be discussed.