206623 Strong Families Strong Forces: The intersection of preliminary steps in the development of a family-based program in partnership with OEF/OIF families with very young children

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: 1:15 PM

Abigail Ross, MSW , Schools of Social Work/Public Health, Boston University, Boston, MA
Ellen DeVoe, PhD , School of Social Work, Boston University, Boston, MA
Rendelle Bolton, MSW, MA , School of Social Work, Boston University, Boston, MA
Ruth Paris, PhD , Boston University School of Social Work, Boston, MA
Young children are disproportionately represented among families with at least one parent who has been deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). The cumulative effects of combat-related experiences on service members have been well-documented and continue to be an area of intense inquiry. By contrast, the strains of lengthy deployment induced parent-child separations and the legacy of war-related experiences in service-member parents have yet to be well studied.

Young children of service members with PTSD face multiple vulnerabilities, including the impact of deployment-related separation, the compromised mental health of the parent left behind, and the impact of the service-member parent's psychological responses to combat trauma upon the parent-child relationship. This paper presents emerging qualitative findings from a multi-phase study to develop an intervention for the reintegration phase of the deployment cycle. In-depth interviews with were conducted with 40 OEF/OIF service-member parents of young children (5 years and younger) and 5 focus groups conducted with spouses/partners post-deployment. Participants were asked to reflect upon their children's experiences of parental deployment/reintegration, their own mental health status and personal legacies of wartime experiences, and the effect of both upon their relationships with their young children. Themes related to post-deployment services and supports and the needs of families and children post-deployment were also explored. Implications on the process of building a consumer and evidence-informed family-based program to mitigate the impact of combat-related stress and/or deployment-related separation for returning OEF/OIF service members in families with young children will be discussed.

Learning Objectives:
1) Articulate a framework for considering the impact of deployment separation and combat stress on young children in OEF/OIF families 2) Describe the mental health consequences of OEF-OIF deployment among service member parents and the related effects on their children 3) Explain a process of developing a consumer and evidence-informed program to support military families when a parent returns from deployment

Keywords: Veterans, Community-Based Partnership

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Project Coordinator for Strong Families Strong Forces.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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