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Mechanisms Through Which a Family Caregiver Coaching Intervention Might Reduce Anxiety Among Children in Military Households

Abstract

Objectives

Children of injured or disabled veterans and service members may be at risk for mental health and adjustment problems due to household stress. Yet, there are few widely available interventions to address the needs of this population. Reducing distress and improving coping skills of the parent who cares for the injured or disabled adult may improve child outcomes. This paper examines whether changes in caregiver psychosocial outcomes after a caregiver coaching intervention are associated with decreases in child anxiety.

Methods

Using programmatic data collected between 2015 and 2019 from participants in a family caregiver coaching intervention (170 caregivers, 294 children), we apply linear mixed models to assess associations between changes in family caregiver well-being, including problem solving, depressive symptoms, burden, health complaints and quality of life, and changes in parent-reported child anxiety.

Results

The baseline median Spence Children’s Anxiety Scale—Parent score was 17; children aged 6–11 had slightly higher scores. Child anxiety scores decreased on average 2.8 points (SD 8.4) between baseline and follow-up. In adjusted models, decreases in caregiver depressive symptoms and health complaints were associated with decreases in child anxiety. Caregiver problem-solving skills, quality of life, and subjective burden were not associated with changes in child anxiety.

Conclusion

Family caregiver-focused interventions that decrease caregiver stress may positively affect children in the household. Few resources are directed at military children; therefore, practitioners should consider ways to leverage caregiver interventions to address child well-being, such as incorporating information on parenting strategies and addressing issues faced by military children.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. In-sample Cronbach’s alpha.

  2. Refers to caregivers who completed 70% of OFC sessions and took the follow up assessment.

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Acknowledgements

Support for this publication comes from a contract with the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving at Georgia Southwestern State University, with funding provided by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. We would like to thank Katherine Nance for her careful review of the final draft.

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Correspondence to Megan Shepherd-Banigan.

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All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This study was reviewed by the Duke School of Medicine Institutional Review Board.

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Shepherd-Banigan, M., Jones, K.A., Wang, K. et al. Mechanisms Through Which a Family Caregiver Coaching Intervention Might Reduce Anxiety Among Children in Military Households. Matern Child Health J 24, 1248–1258 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-020-02964-w

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-020-02964-w

Keywords

  • Child anxiety
  • Family caregiver
  • Chronically ill or disabled parents
  • Military household
  • Intervention effects