Abstract: A Study on Families Coping with Military-Related PTSD: Practical Implications (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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A Study on Families Coping with Military-Related PTSD: Practical Implications

Friday, January 13, 2023
Hospitality 1 - Room 443, 4th Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Tara Collins, Post Doctoral Scholar, Private home, Lethbridge, AB, Canada
Dora Tam, PhD, Professor, University of Calgary, AB

Background and Purpose: Military-related PTSD is a sensitive topic as it encompasses not only the “private realm” of the how families are influenced and shaped by the military parent’s trauma but also military culture. Military culture is unique and provides a specialized context for the experience of military-related PTSD. In this presentation, we will share a study on how families cope when residing with a military parent experiencing military-related PTSD. Specifically, we will focus on the intervention with the non-military parents and their children that will eventually be beneficial to the military parent and the family as a whole.

Methods: Following theoretical sampling, semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 21 non-military parents and four adult children who met the inclusion criteria. Corbin and Strauss’ (2015) grounded theory research was utilized in this study. The structured coding procedures and the constant comparison approach developed by Corbin and Strauss (2015) was utilized to analyze the data while simultaneously collecting data. The study began with line-by-line coding and than looked at similarities and differences to explore the data in new ways, while examining biases thorough ongoing checks on research quality.

Results: The theory of Family Evolving was constructed, which involved six oscillating states of functioning. The states include: stability/healthy; instability/wavering; crisis/emergency; re-balancing/rebuilding; recurring instability/deflated hope; and refocusing/evolving functioning. Based on the levels of stress and available resources, coping among families in this study oscillated between these states of functioning. Families shifted behaviours and added their ways of relating to one another in response to the military parent’s alteration of their behaviours. Essentially, responses from the non-military family members formed a feedback loop. When the military parent became aware of the impacts of their behaviours on the family, they were more open and receptive to seeking support for themselves and their family.

Conclusions and Implications: Families in this study shared common experiences in how they coped with military-related PTSD and subsequent behaviours. Social work practice, policy, theory, and research methodology implications are explored. Above all, a family and cultural friendly approach in which all family members are included in the intervention process by recognizing ongoing stressors and the shift of family dynamics as well as the resiliency within the family that are evolving is shared.

Keywords: military related PTSD, grounded theory, family coping