Across the United States nearly 2 million children are living in military households;almost 40% are under the age of 6. The impact of deployment on the service member, coupled with distress and emotional symptoms in the nondeployed parent, places military families at particular risk, and this is most pronounced for families in the Nationl Guard and Reserves. Parental deployment has been linked to high levels of parenting stress, parent psychiatric symptoms, and depression and behavior problems in children. Reunification also poses challenges, including the normative tasks of reestablishing relationships, roles and family routines. This project aims to address the needs of military families with young children (2- to 5-years-old) following a deployment, with a particular focus on the Guard and Reserves. STRoNG Families is a brief, group-based parenting intervention for service members, their partners and children, and focuses on enhancing positive parenting through an intervention that incorporates five core pillars: 1) parent education, 2) social support, 3) supporting parent-child interactions, 4) connecting families to resources, and 5) improving stress reduction and self-care skills. Project methods involve a randomized controlled trial (N=160) comparing parents in the STRoNG Families treatment (n=80) to an attentional control condition that involves access to web-based informational resources (n=80). Our core hypotheses are that STRoNG Families participants will evidence enhanced positive parenting and reductions in mental health symptoms. Pre-post assessments will employ a multi-method approach to assess parenting, including self-reported parenting stress, observations of parenting, and interviews to assess parent attributions and representations of their children. Pre- post assessments will also identify changes in parent depression and posttraumatic stress, while exploratory analyses will examine the impact of the intervention on parent- reported child behavior problems. This project will lay the foundation for a subsequent RCT to longitudinally evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention for improving child outcomes. Access to evidence- based parenting support can ultimately improve outcomes for this vulnerable population. This proposal is responsive to the urgent need for acceptable, effective interventions specifically tailored for the experiences of military families with young children.

Public Health Relevance

Nearly 2 million children live in military households, with parental deployment linked to high levels of parenting stress, parental mood and anxiety symptoms, and child behavior problems. This project focuses on the needs of military families with preschool-aged children following deployment. We aim to test the efficacy of a novel parenting group intervention designed to enhance positive parenting and reduce the impact of parental mental health problems among military families with young children. This proposal is responsive to the urgent need to develop acceptable, effective preventive interventions for military families with young children, particularly those in the National Guard/Reserves.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Psychosocial Development, Risk and Prevention Study Section (PDRP)
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Maholmes, Valerie
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University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Schools of Medicine
Ann Arbor
United States
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