When Parents Go to War

Psychology Professor Deborah C. Beidel and her graduate student Brian Bunnell were recently awarded a $2.7 million dollar research grant for a project entitled “When parents go to war,” which will be funded by the Department of Defense Broad Army Agency.

This three year, multi-site investigation will examine the effects of deployment on children and stay-behind spouses, and will include neurobiological and physiological measures of stress, as well as assessment of social and emotional functioning.

From the abstract:

This study will examine the effects of deployment upon children and non-deployed spouses using biological and psychological measures of stress, diagnostic evaluation, and assessment of family, social and academic functioning using on a carefully-controlled design.

Should we find the presence of significant stress and functional impairment, we will develop an early intervention/prevention program based on the problems identified. Specific Aims: This proposal has three specific aims: (1) To compare psychological symptoms, stressful behaviors and functional impairment among children of deployed parents, children of non-deployed parents, divorced/separated parents and two parent families (normal controls) using a well-controlled design and appropriate assessment. (2) To compare parental psychological stress and parenting stress these same four groups. (3) To determine if parental emotional stress/distress, psychological symptoms and perceptions of stressful parenting predicts the child’s objective and subjective response to stress.

Study Design: This three site study will use a four-group, multimodal assessment of biological and psychological indicators of stress and psychopathology. Outcome measures will include self- and parent-reported stress, cortisol levels, and sleep quality (via sleep actigraphy). Uniquely, this study will compare four groups including children of a deployed parent (n=112), children of a non-deployed parent (112), children of non-military divorced/separated parents (n=112), and children of civilian intact families (n=112) in order to experimentally isolate the effects of military deployment, rather than those of separation from a parent.

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