Fathers’ Perspectives on Strengthening Military Families: A Mixed Method Evaluation of a 10-Week Resiliency Building Program
A recent Institute of Medicine report on “The Assessment or Readjustment Needs of Veterans, Service Members, and Their Families” http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2013/Returning-Home-from-Iraq-and-Afghanistan.aspx, (2013) underscored the need for effective support for military families with young children, and that effective engagement into existing services remains a challenge. This mixed-method study involved 14 fathers (previously deployed military) who engaged in the Strong Military Families Program, a resiliency-building group for families with young children. The purpose of this paper was twofold: first, to identify the efficacy of this brief intervention for reducing mental health symptomatology among previously deployed military fathers who completed the group, and second to better understand the perceptions and reflections of fathers who completed an effective symptom management program in order to fill the literature gap around this issue and guide future efforts at increasing engagement of this population. Pre- and post-group assessments were administered including depression and posttraumatic stress symptom ratings. Assessments also included interviews designed to elicit fathers’ expectations before the program and to capture their reflections after completion. Quantitative analyses examined changes in symptoms pre- to post-group, and qualitative analyses aimed to better understand fathers’ experiences and help guide future efforts to increase engagement of this population. A grounded theory approach was employed to analyze interview content, and two themes were identified reflecting a desire for (1) connection and (2) learning. The prominence of these themes both before and after group underscored the value of connection to others who shared experience and opportunity for learning effective parenting strategies. Corresponding quantitative analyses indicated a significant decrease in self-reported posttraumatic stress (p < .05) and trend level reduction in depression (p < .10), suggesting participation may contribute to more effective symptom management. Subgroup analyses contrasting the pre-group interviews of fathers who endorsed higher (n = 9) versus lower (n = 5) levels of symptoms revealed that those with greater symptomatology expressed more themes related to fear of committing to the program. Discussion will focus on effective outreach and engagement, and the need to align programs to the interests of previously deployed fathers of young children.
KeywordsFamily program Fathers Military Reintegration Young children Expectations Reflections
The research presented was supported through funds from the Ethel & James Flinn Foundation (PI: Rosenblum), Eunice K. Schriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (5 R21 HD072375-02; PI: Rosenblum), and Welcome Back Veterans, an initiative of Major League Baseball and the McCormick Foundation (PI: Greden). We thank the families who participated in this project, as well as the clinicians at regional community agencies (Easter Seals Oakland County and Judson Center Macomb County) for serving the families for participating in this trial. We acknowledge the valuable contributions of the Strong Military Families project staff and the University of Michigan Military Support Programs and Networks.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
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