A new research study is looking for volunteers to provide feedback about the effects of deployments on a family unit.
“Over the past decade more than 2 million U.S. military service members have deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq as part of the war on terror. Approximately the same number of children has had to cope with parental deployment, in some cases multiple times,” said Candice Alfano, associate professor in clinical psychology at the University of Houston and director of the Sleep and Anxiety Center for Kids.
“The media often focuses on the grave physical and mental risks that soldiers face during deployment, and rightfully so. But there are other stressors and risks that service members face here at home also deserving of our attention — specifically risk to the adjustment and well-being of their families.”
Alfano, the principal investigator for the pilot study titled, “Risk and Resilience in Military Families,” is looking for service members, who have deployed at least once to Iraq or Afghanistan in the past 10 years and have a spouse and at least one child between the age of 2 and 17 years old.
Each parent and child age 7 and older will be asked to fill out a questionnaire. Each participant will receive a $10 gift card. Names are not put with answers and survey packets are sent through the mail, so participants can be located anywhere in the country. Service members can be active duty, Reserve or a veteran no longer serving.
The study aims to contribute to understanding of the effects of single and repeated deployments on families by examining relationships among deployment, child behaviors and emotions, parenting stress and practices, family relationships, sleep patterns and coping within the family.
“We’re asking specifically about behaviors both during the deployment and upon return, what experiences and behaviors were like then, too,” Alfano said. “Previous research is limited to asking about behavior problems when (the service member is) deployed. This not only asks about the deployment of the parent, but the return of the parent.”
The study also asks about the child’s exposure to video games depicting realistic war zones.
“There are a number of new perspectives and I hope to use these data for larger studies .., ” Alfano said.
Goal is to help military families cope
Her ultimate goal is that findings from the study might be used to develop effective prevention and intervention programs for military families struggling with the long-term effects of war.
Alfano, a licensed clinical psychologist, said she was working in Washington, D.C., when she began working with children anxious about a parent’s upcoming deployment.
“I didn’t know anything about it, so I took it a step further and thought, ‘If I don’t know, the vast majority of providers don’t know,’” she said.
“My hope is (the study) not only helps military families directly, but helps them indirectly by supporting providers who are working with these families.”
The study is recruiting 100 families. Those interested in participating or finding out more information can call Jessica Balderas at (713) 743-3400 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.