The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Design and Implementation of Technology-Delivered Parent Education for Fathers in Military Fathers

Friday, January 17, 2014: 10:30 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 008B River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Shawna J. Lee, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Tova Neugut, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Richard Tolman, PhD, Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Katherine L. Rosenblum, PhD, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry & Associate Research Scientist, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
BACKGROUND: 44% of U.S. military personnel have children, and 37% of these parents have at least one child ≤ age 5. Military fathers face multiple separations from and reunions with their families, while fathers whose partners serve in the military experience increased parenting responsibility when their partner deploys. Yet there is little parenting support for fathers to address these unique challenges. The objective of this study is to describe the design and implementation of Mobile Dad (MD), a Smartphone app. MD is brief, highly tailored parent education designed to enhance father engagement among fathers in military families. MD is targeted to fathers of children ≤14 months. In this presentation, our research questions are formative in nature. That is, we describe how MD content was developed and field tested with fathers in military families.

METHODS: Several iterations of data were collected: (1) Initial focus groups (n=39) to inform development of MD parent education content with USAF service members regarding their access to parenting information and sources of parenting support in early fatherhood. (2) Usability tests (n=4) to examine how well participants understand and can navigate the app interface. (3) In-depth interviews with military fathers (n=9 fathers of at least one child ≤3) on the likeability of MD content, including usefulness and relevance to their experiences as service members and fathers of young children. (4) Data from fathers in military families (n=100) describing user engagement and responsiveness to the app content, including both passively received user data assessing whether users viewed the parent education messages and uploaded content to MD as well as self-reported user data regarding how well participants understood the MD parent education messages, trusted the information provided by MD, and how much MD helped them read to, talk to, and play with their child.

RESULTS: (1) Fathers report receiving little parenting information and tend to rely on informal sources of parenting information and support (e.g., family and friends) more than formal sources of support (e.g., social workers and pediatricians). (2) There is a high degree of usability of the app interface. (3) MD content is relevant to the parenting experiences of both deployed and residential military fathers. Functions such as logging child’s development milestones and receiving tailored parent education are perceived favorably. (4) We will describe data to be collected during summer 2013 from fathers associated with all branches of service, stationed at a large military installation in the US and recruited from a large military hospital and on-base child care centers.

CONCLUSIONS: MD addresses several key barriers to delivering parent education to fathers. The use of technology allows for a high degree of tailoring and personalization and technology-based approaches such as the MD smartphone app may facilitate help seeking and disclosure when discussing sensitive topics. Furthermore, MD is highly engaging because it is father-focused and designed to address the unique needs of military fathers. An implication is the great potential for dissemination and reach to diverse fathers, many of whom would otherwise receive little or no parent education.