OUR RESEARCH FOCUS
Military children and families demonstrate unique strengths and vulnerabilities as they are affected by combat-related illness and injury, bereavement, child maltreatment and family violence. Child and Family Program’s pioneering research addressing these complex issues has been translated into scholarly publications, as well as actionable and educational materials for military and government stakeholders, clinicians, and community leaders. CFP also provides consultation to DoD leadership, national media outlets and engages in academic and professional projects that more broadly support children within the U.S. and throughout the world.
STEPPING FORWARD IN GRIEF (SFG)
LEARNING HOW TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP MILITARY FAMILIES COPE WITH GRIEF
NMFBS found that a sizeable portion of surviving military family members suffer from high levels of grief and distress, putting them at risk for harmful changes in mental and physical health. Based on these results, CFP formed a partnership with the Center for Complicated Grief at Columbia University to adapt Complicated Grief Therapy (CGT), shown to be helpful in civilian populations, into a digital intervention (GriefSteps) that is designed to assist with grief integration, and decrease risk for long-term problems. The goal of SFG, a randomized controlled trial, is to learn how to best assist military family survivors with their grief and reduce the long-term problems that can occur after a loss. Virtual apps may be an extremely helpful resource for current and future bereaved military family members. The study is now closed to enrollment, but participants remain involved and the study will end in January 2020, with a first publication expected in the spring, 2020.
Virtual apps may be an extremely helpful resource for current and future bereaved military family members as they would be easily accessible and provide comfort to military Service members by knowing that this resource exists. During 2017, the training phase of the study was launched, providing opportunities for all research team members to become facile with procedures and responsibilities in preparation for the RCT. The training phase also allowed the study team to determine which study procedures or program materials needed to be updated prior to the next phase
THE SFG STUDY
The SFG study is a randomized controlled trial (RCT). Participants will be assigned to one of two groups: either an intervention group to receive GriefSteps (informed by CGT) or a control group to receive WellnessSteps that is focused on building resilience through more general wellness strategies. The study will compare overall improvement in grief severity and adaptation to loss among participants in the GriefSteps intervention group, as compared to those in the WellnessSteps control group. GriefSteps and WellnessSteps will be available virtually, either in a mobile app or on the Internet. Each participant will also be assigned a “guide” who is a member of the study team who can help answer questions about the study and support use of the assigned program.
"Military children are our nation’s children. Like their military parents, they serve our country and deserve the country’s support in meeting the challenges that come with military family life."
STUDY OF LONG-TERM OUTCOMES OF TERRORISM-RELATED GRIEF
CFP partnered with Voices of September 11th (VOICES), a not-for-profit organization that provides services for 9/11 families, and the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime (CRC), an organization that is engaged with, and supportive of, family members who were bereaved by the Air India Flight 182 bombing.
The study partnersinvestigated long-term bereavement outcomes following a terrorism-related death, including grief, traumatic symptoms, resilience and post-traumatic growth. More than 400 family members bereaved by the bombing of Air India Flight 182 or by the events of September 11th completed online questionnaires about their experiences.
The study used findings to develop preliminary working models for understanding risk and protective factors for bereaved family members of terrorism-related deaths. Findings from this study were presented to the research community at professional meetings and a manuscript was recently published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.
CHILD MALTREATMENT IN U.S. MILITARY COMMUNITIES AND FAMILIES
Several ongoing CFP projects focus on identifying risk factors for child maltreatment to inform the development of prevention and intervention strategies that promote military family health and resilience. CSTS initial work focused exclusively on child neglect, the child maltreatment type most commonly reported in the U.S. and most frequently associated with child fatality. The aim was to identify factors that contribute to elevated risk of child neglect by investigating characteristics of substantiated child neglect cases in U.S. Army families.
Data were collected from records of 400 substantiated child neglect cases from Army installations across the country. A second CFP project, supported by funding awarded from the DoD in 2016, builds on this line of research to advance understanding of risk and protective factors for child maltreatment in military families from all Service branches. CSTS efforts to date have focused on examining differences in the prevalence of child abuse and neglect types in relation to child, family, and Service member characteristics. Future work will include a population-based investigation of all active duty Service members with one or more children between the years 2004 and 2014 to examine longitudinal trends in child maltreatment in military families. Results from this project will inform the understanding of changes in risk and protective factors for child maltreatment across the military life course.