242636 Situated Mothering: Role Transformation for Wives of Deployed Service Members

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 11:30 AM

Ellen Maynard, BA , School of Social Work, Boston University, Boston, MA
Abigail Ross, MSW, MPH , Schools of Social Work/Public Health, Boston University, Boston, MA
Ruth Paris, PhD , Boston University School of Social Work, Boston, MA
Ellen DeVoe, PhD , School of Social Work, Boston University, 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 continue to be an area of intense inquiry. More recently, research has begun to explore the impact of deployment upon a service member's familial relationships and his/her ability to parent (MacDermid, 2005), resulting in a descriptive framework of military parenting termed ‘situated fathering' that underscores the impact of physical location and social circumstances upon parenting experiences and capabilities. The experiences of OEF/OIF wives with young children have yet to be explored.

This paper presents qualitative findings from a multi-phase study funded by the Department of Defense. In-depth interviews were conducted with 30 OEF/OIF wives with young children. Mothers were asked to reflect upon experiences of the father's deployment, their own mental health status, and the effects of these upon their ability to parent effectively. Significant concerns for the at-home mother included managing the worry of chronic threat to the parent in theater and practical demands of maintaining a household/caring for children. In addition to themes of physical, temporal and social circumstances identified by MacDermid (2005), the associated role transformation emerged as a salient theme. Specifically, mothers described themselves as able to manage the roles of both mother and father. Findings suggest that ‘situated parenting' is a useful concept for understanding the experiences of at-home spouses and for developing preventive intervention initiatives that promote family resilience.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related education
Social and behavioral sciences
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
1) 1) To articulate a framework for considering the impact of deployment separation and combat stress on spouses of OEF/OIF service members who are mothers of young children.

Keywords: Social Work, Veterans

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked on this project as a first year social work intern and am now a research assistant.
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.