Background: Reintegration into all aspects of civilian life is one of the most challenging obstacles returning OEF/OIF Veterans face post-deployment. While family members serve as a resource for Veterans during this difficult period, the potential negative toll of deployment on families oftentimes hinders family functioning. Ineffective family functioning leads to poor treatment outcomes and quality of life. Race/ethnicity has also been linked to family functioning and Veterans'recovery. To promote the reintegration of Veterans and improve their treatment outcomes and quality of life, we must understand the specific areas of family functioning that are negatively impacted by deployment to war. The proposed study will be guided by the McMaster Model of family systems and explore the following exploratory research questions: 1) Are there differences between Veterans and their significant others (SOs) in their perceptions of family functioning post-deployment? 2) Are there differences among White, Black, and Hispanic Veterans and their SOs in their perceptions of family functioning post-deployment? 3) What are the differences in Veterans and their SOs'perceptions of the challenges and facilitators of family functioning post-deployment? 4) How does race/ethnicity affect Veterans'and their SOs'perceptions of the challenges and facilitators in family functioning post-deployment? Objectives: The proposed exploratory project will examine racial/ethnic variations in Veterans and their SOs'perceptions in multiple dimensions of family functioning. Findings will inform a Merit Review proposal to conduct a longitudinal in-depth examination of family functioning to examine how personal, family, and contextual factors impact Veterans'family functioning and rehabilitation outcomes over time. Methods: A mixed methods design will be employed. Quantitative. This initial phase will have a cross- sectional design to address questions 1 and 2. Participants will consist of White, Black, and Hispanic OEF/OIF Veterans who have returned from deployment for no less than three months and their SOs (15 dyads per group). A clinical/demographic data form will be used to collect participants'clinical, demographic and Veterans'service history information. The Family Assessment Device (FAD) will be used to collect individual family members'perceptions on seven dimensions of family functioning. The analysis of each of seven individual FAD scores will reflect the 3 x 2 structure of race/ethnic group and Veteran/SO;dyad will be a random effect. Depending on whether or not the test for an interaction between race/ethnicity and Veteran/SO is significant, comparisons will be made between simple or main effects of racial/ethnic groups and Veterans and their SOs using Tukey's HSD. Qualitative. The subsequent phase will address questions 3 and 4. Maximal variation sampling will be used to select a purposeful subsample of 15 dyads based on race/ethnicity (5 dyads per group). Inductive data analysis procedures and the constant comparative method will be used to analyze and develop a coding framework. Interviews will allow us to explore quantitative results in more depth to explain racial/ethnic variations and differences in perspectives of family functioning. Significance: This is the first known study that explores family functioning from the perspectives of two different family members in three racial/ethnic groups. Quantitative and qualitative methods complement each other;by combining them we will obtain a fuller picture of post-deployment family functioning and Veterans'post-deployment recovery by identifying specific problem areas in family functioning from the detailed perspectives of Veterans and SOs and relevant variables for a future study. This study addresses VA priorities regarding the need to conduct research on returning Veterans and families from diverse racial/ethnic groups. Findings will provide preliminary data for a large study and program of research that will allow us to develop tailored rehabilitation treatments that address specific troublesome areas of family functioning based on Veterans and SOs'racial/ethnic characteristics and differences in perceptions about family functioning.
Findings from this study will help identify problems areas in family functioning post-deployment across racial/ethnic groups from the perspectives of Veterans and their significant others (SOs). A mixed methods approach will allow us to identify variables (i.e., demographic characteristics or the dimensions of family functioning in the Family Assessment Device) most relevant to post-deployment family functioning. Interviews will allow us explore in-depth the impact of these variables on Veterans and SO's perceptions of family functioning. This knowledge will help develop rehabilitation strategies and treatments aimed at specific problem areas in family functioning, Veterans'and SOs'racial/ethnic characteristics, and differences in perceptions about family functioning. As a result, rehabilitation treatments will help minimize post-deployment family reintegration challenges and capitalize on the benefits of having family involvement in treatment protocols, thereby maximizing Veterans'functional recovery and facilitating their reintegration into civilian life.