Online Program

Improved measurement of family functioning for military populations

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Hilary Aralis, MS, Department of Biostatistics, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Li-Jung Liang, PhD, Department of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Maegan Sinclair, MPH, Division of Population Behavioral Health at the Semel Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Alan Semaan, Nathanson Family Resilience Center, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Kirsten Woodward, MSW, LCSW, Wounded, Ill and Injured - M9, Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Falls Church, VA
Patricia Lester, MD, Division of Population Behavioral Health, UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Norweeta Milburn, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA Nathanson Family Resilience Center, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
background/purpose: Improving family functioning among at-risk families can contribute to improved mental health for family members. Family functioning is often measured by the General Functioning scale of the McMaster Family Assessment Device. This scale is usually administered to both parents in a family but responses by one parent are most often used for clinical and research purposes. More attention needs to be given to identifying whether there are systematic differences in how parents respond to the scale.   

methods/approach: Service delivery data from the BUMED family-centered preventative intervention program designed to promote resilience among military families facing wartime deployments and transitions. Using de-identified data from 1,655 families enrolled between 2008 and 2014, we examined differences in item responses between service member and civilian parents using a differential item functioning approach based in item response theory. This approach allows for family-level estimation of family functioning as a latent trait and subsequent identification of item response differences between parents.

findings:  Civilian parents were more likely than their service member partners to indicate unhealthy functioning on items related to expressing feelings and confiding in one another. Parents did not differ from one another on items concerning acceptance and decision making. For items related to planning and crisis support, differences between parents varied based on underlying level of functioning.

implications: Item response differences affect measurement of military family functioning. Ignoring these differences may lead to inadequate development of effective intervention programs aimed at preventing mental health problems.

Learning Areas:

Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice

Learning Objectives:
Explain systematic item response differences between service member and civilian parents on a measure of family functioning. Describe the impact of such differences on the measurement of family functioning among military populations.

Keyword(s): Health Assessment, Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctoral student in Biostatistics with a master’s degree in statistics. I have conducted statistical analyses in support of research related to mental health among military populations leading to numerous peer-reviewed publications. I am currently a student researcher at the UCLA Nathanson Family Resilience Center and my interests include improving mental health assessment among military families.
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.