Positive Reflection in Couples Therapy

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Creative Commons [Flickr, Lost in Conversation, February 28, 2011]
Creative Commons [Flickr, Lost in Conversation, February 28, 2011]
Research on couple communication often focuses only on conflict management without addressing issues around emotional intimacy.  Osgarby and Halford created a therapeutic task for couples which entailed remembering positive incidents [1]. They examined conflict as well as expressions of emotional intimacy when using this task versus more traditional problem-solving for Australian couples who considered themselves “happy” or “unhappy” with their marriages.

A total of 52 couples were recruited, including 25 couples who considered themselves “happy” in marriage and 27 couples who reported that they were “unhappy” in their marriage.  All of the couples had been married for at least 1 year, were between the ages of 21 and 65, and were not in therapy for issues related to their marriage.  The average age of men participating in the study was 42, and women averaged 40 years old. Couples had been married for an average of 15 years.

To study couple interaction, participants were asked to recall interactions with their spouses over a period of a week.  Communication was observed during a discussion of a positive relationship memory such as a birth of a child or shared achievement and a time when the couple had experienced a conflict in their relationship.  Discussions were videotaped and behaviors coded into 5 categories: (1) Invalidation (disagree, justify, withdraw); (2) Conflict (criticize, negative suggestions); (3) Validate (agree, accept); (4) Discuss (describe, self-disclose, positive suggestion); or (5) Expressions of dyadic intimacy (couples interacted positively while describing an event in their relationship).  Participant affect or emotional responses of angry, sad, intimate, or relaxed were also observed and recorded.

The resulting analysis identified significant behavioral differences between satisfied and distressed couples in both reminiscence and problem solving.   Expressions of intimacy were rare in both satisfied and unsatisfied groups during the problem solving discussion. When reminiscing, satisfied couples expressed much higher degrees of intimacy than distressed couples did.  Sadness was rarely observed in “happy” couples when reminiscing, while anger was often evident in distressed couples during the problem solving discussion.

It might be helpful for therapists to consider using reminiscences of positive events when working on marital issues. This could provide an opportunity to build intimacy, rather than focusing so much on negative marital interactions.



[1] Osgarby, S. M., & Halford, W. K. (2013). Couple relationship distress and observed expression of intimacy during reminiscence about positive relationship events. Behavior Therapy, 44, 686-700. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2013.05.003

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Financial Planning at Divorce

 By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu

Military families often experience many stressful events (e.g., PCS moves and deployments). Another one is divorce. The period of time before and after a divorce is especially difficult because people are expected to make rational and far-reaching decisions at a time of emotional turmoil. This may also be their first experience with the court system and hiring an attorney. In addition, expenses often increase when a spouse moves out and sets up a separate household.

Below is some key information to share with military families to help them cope with the financial stresses of divorce:

  • Do not sign a property settlement agreement, or any divorce-related document, that you do not understand or you feel contains unfair terms. Consult your own attorney – not your spouse’s attorney – before signing anything
  • Estimate the dollar value of household property. Fair market value is the price at which a willing buyer will buy an item and a willing seller will sell it. Replacement value is the cost of replacing an item (e.g., refrigerator) at current prices. As spouses discuss how to divide property, the one who plans to keep property may think in terms of fair market value, while the other (who will be replacing property) may think in terms of replacement value.
  • Determine who will pay debts incurred during a marriage. List all debts including a home mortgage, car payments, and credit card accounts. Usually, one spouse or the other will assume an obligation and agree to “hold harmless” the other party. However, it is important to note that, if either party doesn’t pay a jointly held debt, creditors may collect from either spouse. Creditors are not bound by the terms of a divorce decree.
  • Plan for future retirement income. A divorced person is eligible for Social Security benefits based on former spouse’s earnings, even if the former spouse is not yet retired. In order to qualify for benefits, the marriage must have lasted at least ten years. For questions about division of military Retired Pay and the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), seek assistance from an attorney who is well versed in military divorce issues.
  • Know the tax consequences of divorce decisions. Marital status on December 31 determines tax-filing status for the year. Usually, the custodial parent claims a couple’s children as dependents. However, a custodial parent can waive the right to claim dependents as part of a divorce settlement, thus allowing the other parent to do so. A signed waiver statement (IRS Form #8332) from the custodial parent is required to be attached to the non-custodial parent’s tax return. Child support is neither deductible by the spouse who pays it nor included in the income of the recipient. Alimony, on the other hand, is taxable to the recipient and deductible as an adjustment to the payor’s gross income.
  • Recognize that 50/50 splits of assets are not necessarily equal. For example, if one spouse takes sole possession of the family home, he or she also shoulders the burden of future property taxes and repairs, as well as possible capital gains taxes. The other spouse, who receives the same dollar amount in cash, has an asset that will continue to grow. Clearly, this property distribution is not equal even though the dollar value is the same.
  • Encourage divorcing couples to consider hiring a professional mediator to resolve issues related to divorce. Mediators are trained not to “take sides” but, rather, to work out a settlement that is fair and equitable for both spouses. This includes both financial issues and other considerations such as child custody. Once these issues are resolved, each spouse’s attorney can assist with a final agreement. This is usually a far less expensive and time-consuming process than letting lawyers negotiate a settlement.

For further information about military family divorces, view the 2012 eXtension MFLNPF webinar, Financial Implications of Divorce. Additional information can be found here.

Life Skills Training for Reservist and National Guard Families

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Creative Commons [Flickr, Making $ense of Finances, July 14, 2014]
Creative Commons [Flickr, Making $ense of Finances, July 14, 2014]
Military leaders have expressed a need for training Reserve and National Guard families in life skills – managing money, legal challenges, social support, and community resources.  University educators familiar with military culture and the challenges specific to the reserve component (RC) of the armed forces developed a program that integrated training in life skills into relationship and marriage education.  The initial evaluation of the “Essential Life Skills for Military Families Program” [1] shows promise.

The Essential Life Skills for Military Families Program (ELSMF) was developed to promote relationship skills at interpersonal and community levels, improve financial skills, and promote legal preparedness.  The curriculum includes four modules delivered as a workshop series.  The workshops can be taught as weekend, evening or full-day events.  The first module centers covers issues associated with deployment, particularly related to the couple relationship and life skills.  The second module focuses on managing personal finances, and managing money as a couple.  Module three discusses the legal aspects of military life, with an emphasis on estate planning.  The fourth module, focuses on building the couple relationship and seeking community support.

A qualitative program evaluation has been conducted to gather feedback on the ELSMF program. A total of 1,003 participants responded to surveys after completing the course, and 333 participants also responded to an open-ended question, “What was the most helpful skill you learned in this class?” Thematic analysis using 2 independent coders yielded the following themes:

  • Better understanding of how military stress impacts the couple relationship, and an appreciation for the role of communication in strengthening the relationship.
  • Appreciation for the integration of life skills into relationship-strengthening programs.
  • Participants commented positively on the course content, and feeling better prepared for deployment after the course, as well appreciating the techniques used, such as active participation and feedback, self-assessment, worksheets, and handouts.

Offering this type of family life education to military families through Cooperative Extension proved to be more challenging than anticipated. It was necessary to provide additional training to county agents related to military life, and to offer programming in a different way than is normally done. It was found that offering the program as part of readiness-related training, such as drill weekends or family weekend events, led to better participation and program engagement. Both single and married couples found the program to be helpful. Overall, this program appears to provide positive benefits for military couples.



[1] Carroll, E. B., Orthner, D. K., Behnke, A., Smith, C. M., Day, S., & Raburn, M. (2013). Integrating life skills into relationship and marriage education: The Essential Life Skills for Military Families program. Family Relations62(4), 559-570. doi:10.1111/fare.12027

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Why is a Support System Important During the Recovery Process?

“When families and spouses are involved, whether mental health or medical diagnosis, that person is being setup for success.”  – Courtney Wilson, U.S. Air Force Mental Health Liaison

The recovery process is never a “one size fits all” approach for wounded warriors and varies depending on the severity of their condition(s). While the military provides a continuity of care to the service member during the medical and/or physical evaluation process, it is the level of involvement from families that has shown positive effects during the recovery of wounded warriors. Evidence exists that family members, especially spouses, may offer important social support, including help, emotional encouragement, and compliance with therapeutic instructions [1].  Similarly, a nonsupportive family context may be associated with a lack of treatment recommendations and result in poor recovery [1].

In the video below Captain Courtney Wilson, an Air Force Mental Health Liaison describes the importance of involving a support system in the recovery of mental health patients. While the service member’s continuity of care is maintained, Capt. Wilson said the family provides an outlet so the warrior doesn’t have to take on everything by themselves. Listen below to Capt. Wilson’s response on the importance of a support system.


[1] Tsouna-Hadjis E, Vemmos KN, Zakopoulos N, Stamatelopoulos S. First-Stroke Recovery Process: The Role of Family Social Support. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2000; 81:881-7.

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on July 17, 2015.

YouTube Twitter Linked In Facebook

FD Early Intervention Webinar: Promoting Positive Relationships

Social Emotional Development in the Early Years: Promoting Positive Relationships

Date:  August. 6, 2015

Time:  11:00 am – 12:30 pm Eastern

Location:  https://learn.extension.org/events/2097#.VaPDD5NVhBc

Creative Commons Licensing {Flickr, Untitled, July 5, 2014]
Creative Commons Licensing {Flickr, Untitled, July 5, 2014]

Amy Santos, PhD, and Kimberly Hile, EdM, will discuss the importance of social emotional development and lifelong outcomes for young children with disabilities. Santos and Hile will discus specific topics including:  1) Research evidence that highlights the importance of healthy and positive relationships between children and their parents and/or caregivers, 2) Cultural, ethnic, racial, and linguistic variations on parent-child interactions and expectations, 3) Considerations for military families (e.g., absence due to deployments, reunification, parenting from afar, etc.), 4) The importance of Family-Centered Practices, 5) Typical relationship struggles between parents/caregivers and children with disabilities, and 6) Parent coaching strategies to support parents and caregivers as they develop healthy and positive relationships with their children.

MFLN FD Early Intervention webinars offer CE Credits through the Early Intervention Training Program (EITP) at the University of Illinois. To find out further information, click here. The EI team is actively pursuing more CE opportunities in states other than Illinois. Please check back frequently to the webinar Learn Event web page to receive updates on our progress. Access to the webinar Learn Event page can be found, here.

For more information on future presentations in the 2015 Family Development webinar series, please visit our professional development website or connect with us via social media for announcements: (Facebook & Twitter)

Sleeping like a baby: What current research can tell us about the role of sleep in building relationships

By Jenna M. Weglarz-Ward, Ed.M.

Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, Our 3 Week Old Girl, Jan. 28, 2008]
Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, Our 3 Week Old Girl, Jan. 28, 2008]
Sleep–one of the top parenting concerns and significant part of every day for families of young children. Sleep can make or break the entire day. Families who have easy and successful sleep routines are able to be well rested each day. This allows for more energy to put forth towards other daily routines and enjoying play time. However, families who experience sleep challenges may struggle with typical routines throughout the day and feel frustration during bedtime. Tired children can be irritable and less able to focus on play and learning. Tired parents may not be as capable of caring for their children and may lose confidence in their parenting abilities. These struggles may impact the building of important parent-child relationships necessary for positive child and family outcomes.

Key findings from recent research studies provide insights into how and why we should focus on helping families improve sleep routines for their children and family members:

  • Relationships are important to children’s sleep.

Belanger, Bernier, Simard, Bordeleau, & Carrier’s study of 62 infants used Attachment Q-sort and antigraph monitors to assess the relationship between attachment and sleep-wake patterns [1]. Their findings indicate that children with more secure attachments to their caregivers sleep better. Therefore, supporting families in creating positive, responsive relationships with their children during the day will help support sleep during the night. In a study of 57 couples, sleep diaries, actigraphs, and questionnaires about infant sleep and parental involvement found that mothers who have partners, specifically fathers, who help with caregiving have better sleep quality and in turn have infants who sleep better [6]. Positive family relationships promote better sleep. More sleep for everyone reduces stress and allows caregivers to be better able to care for and connect with their children.

  • Sleep is not just a time for rest.

Sleep provides time for children’s brain to develop. Infants’ brains continue to work during sleep. Friedrich, Wilhelm, Born, & Friederici in a study of brainwaves of 90 infants found that infants who took a nap after learning new words retained this new knowledge more than infants who remained active after learning the words [3]. These researchers conclude that children consolidate and integrate new knowledge into their existing memories while they sleep. This strengthens neural pathways that are vital to children’s development. Strong neural pathways are both supported by and influence social relationships.

  • Children with special needs may have sleep challenges.

In DeMarcus, Soffer-Dudek, Dollberg, Bar-Haim, & Sadah’s study, 95 infants sensory reactivity and sleep-wake patterns were measured at 3, 6, and 9 months [2]. Using objective measures of sleep allowed researchers to connect sensitivity and sleep patterns. Their findings indicate that children who are both hyper- and hypo-sensitive may experience poor sleep quality. These children may be more sensitive to environmental cues such as light, sound, and smell. This may help provide insight into child with autism spectrum disorder. Children with autism spectrum disorder may experience difficulty calming their sensory input to rest and also may lack the social and emotional skills to soothe themselves to sleep. Learn more about sleep and autism here (http://theautismprogram.illinois.edu/2013/08/23/autism-and-sleeping-problems/). Assessing and adapting the sensory environment for these children will help create a responsive and restful bedtime routine.

Helping families and children improve their sleep quality can influence both child development as well as parents’ confidence and enjoyment in caring for their children. Consistent routines have been linked with earlier bedtimes, shorter latency periods from putting the child to bed and the child falling asleep, reduced night wakings, and increased sleep times [4] [5]. As practitioners, we can support families address sleep challenges by gaining a better understanding of the families’ preferences, routines, and culture. Using some of the resources provided below, practitioners can provide meaningful suggestions to help families develop consistent sleep routines.

Family-friendly Sleep Resources


[1] Belanger, M., Bernier, A., Simard, S., Bordeleau, S., & Carrier, J. (2015). Attachment and sleep among toddlers: Disentangling attachment security and dependency. In M. El-Sheikh & A. Sadeh (Eds.), Sleep and Development: Advancing Theory and Research. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development Series 316, 80(1) (125-140): Wiley Publishing, Boston, MA.

[2] DeMarcus, G. S., Soffer-Dudek, N., Dollberg, S., Bar-Haim, Y., & Sadah, A., (2015). Reactivity and sleep in infants: A longitudinal investigation. In M. El-Sheikh & A. Sadeh (Eds.), Sleep and Development: Advancing Theory and Research. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development Series 316, 80(1) (49-69): Wiley Publishing, Boston, MA.

[3] Friedrich, Wilhelm, Born, & Friederici (2015). Generalization of word meaning during infant sleep. Nature Communications, 6, 6004. Available at Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (2015, January). Infants create new knowledge while sleeping. ScienceDaily. 

[4] Mindell JA, Li AM, Sadeh A, Kwon R, Goh DY. Bedtime routines for young children: a dose-dependent association with sleep outcomes. SLEEP 2015;38(5):717–722.

[5] Staples, A. D., Bates, J. F., & Peterson, I. T. (2015). Bedtime routines in early childhood: Prevalence, consistency and associations with nighttime sleep. In M. El-Sheikh & A. Sadeh (Eds.), Sleep and Development: Advancing Theory and Research. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development Series 316, 80(1) (141-159): Wiley Publishing, Boston, MA.

[6] Tikotsky, L., Sadah, A., Volkovich, E., Manber, R., Meiri, G., & Shahar, G. (2015). Infant sleep development from 3 to 6 months postpartum: Links with maternal sleep and paternal involvement. In M. El-Sheikh & A. Sadeh (Eds.), Sleep and Development: Advancing Theory and Research. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development Series 316, 80(1) (107-124): Wiley Publishing, Boston, MA.

This post was written by Jenna Weglarz-Ward, Ed.M. & Rosa Milagros Santos, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Predatory Lending Practices Webinar Coming Up

By Molly C. Herndon

July 15 is Military Consumer Protection Day and during the month of July a number of organizations are hosting events geared towards providing Military families with resources to prevent consumer fraud.

In this vein, the MiPayday Loans Neon Sign image by Jasonlitary Families Learning Network’s Personal Finance team will present a webinar on Predatory Lending Practices on Tuesday, July 28 at 11 a.m. ET. Speakers Dr. Barbara O’Neill and Marcus Beauregard will present a 90 minute webinar that will focus on the practices and schemes associated with predatory lending, as well as tips for educators and practitioners to share with clients to help them avoid becoming victims of these practices.

Of particular importance, this webinar will focus on the Regulation (32 CFR Part 232), which implements the Military Lending Act (MLA), which has been going through a significant revision so that the limitations in the MLA are effectively applied to credit available to Service members and their families.

We are excited for the expertise co-speaker, Marcus Beauregard will bring to this presentation.  Mr. Beauregard, Colonel, USAF (Retired) is the Chief of the DoD-State Liaison Office (DSLO) within the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy.  Together with a Senior Liaison and 8 Regional Liaisons, he works with state governments on a slate of key issues important to Service members and their families.  Additionally, he is one of two individuals responsible for the Military Lending Act and updating the DoD regulation required to implement the law.  He spent 27  years in the U.S. Air Force, having assignments as a SquadronCommander, the Director of Financial Management for Air Force Services and the Director of Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He retired in July 2003 and continued to work as a contract employee from August 2003 to April 2010, at which time he became a civil service employee.  Mr. Beauregard developed the Financial Readiness Campaign in 2003, while on active duty as the Director of MWR Policy.  Following his retirement, he continued to work on financial readiness for DoD and helped establish the DSLO. In 2006, he was given the responsibility to oversee the implementation of the Military Lending Act.

Dr. O’Neill will present the first hour of this webinar, which will focus on the definition of predatory lending and characteristics of predatory loans, as well as descriptions of several common types of high-cost loans including payday, car title, and pawn shop loans and other forms of subprime lending. Mr. Beauregard will tackle the impact of predatory loans on military families and regulations in place to protect against fraud during the final 30 minutes of the webinar.
So, save the date of Tuesday, July 28 at 11 a.m. ET to join this exciting webinar. More information and details on how to join are available here. 

Adapting Your Leadership During Change

By Karen Shirer, PhD          

Understanding the nature of change

No matter what organization we work in, we deal with increasing complexity and on-going change.  In my own work, one of our largest Extension programs in Minnesota, SNAP Education, experienced a 30% budget cut during 2013.  We continue to deal with the effects of this unexpected change today.  How do we become more resilient in the face of these kinds of on-going change in our organizations?

A first step to building our resiliency involves understanding the kinds of change we deal with and how the kind of change determines how we respond.  Some changes seem to come out of nowhere, like the funding cut to SNAP Ed on January 1, 2013 that came as a result of federal legislative maneuvering. Other changes are more predictable or routine (e.g., people leave and create openings) but still require us to manage the response to it. Still other changes are a combination of routine and unpredicted changes.  For us, the loss of SNAP Ed funding was this latter kind of change.  We needed to first figure out how we were going to cover our costs for the last 9 months of the fiscal year while at the same time designing a new structure that the reduced resources could support (i.e., staff reductions).

What is your change?

On June 25, the Minnesota Family Learning Network, Lifestyle Transitions Team offered its first webinar, focusing on Building Resiliency during Change – Finding Courage Within. You can view this archived webinar at https://youtu.be/Hnjdur_rxvM.  During the webinar, military Family Service Providers identified a number of challenges that they faced in their organizations and their work with families, including:  A lack of staff to provide services and turnover of staff, reduced funding levels, too much paperwork and red tape, and challenges getting information out to families.  At the same time, service members and their families were seeking services for reintegration problems, financial challenges, the emotional wounds of the service member, feeling isolated, and difficulties seeking employment.

This feedback confirmed what I already believed:  military family services organizations face challenges on a number of fronts in their organization and with the families they serve.  The webinar provided valuable information on how to begin to address the personal stressors caused by these change. If you have not viewed it, please take some time to do so.  This blog adds to the webinar by providing you with information to help manage and lead change in your organization.

Types of change that will help us understand what is happening

A popular saying is “nobody likes change except a baby with a wet diaper.”  Even if we do not like change, our work requires that we address it in effective ways.  Heifetz, Linsky & Grashow (2009),  researchers at the Harvard Business School, developed a model that outlines three kinds of change or challenges/problems that leaders and managers face in their organizations and strategies for responding. These changes are labeled as:  technical, adaptive and a combination of technical and adaptive.

  • Technical problems are well defined and their solutions are known. Those with adequate expertise and organizational capacity can solve them.  For example, a father of young children seeks help with finding high quality childcare for his children so that he can continue working during his wife’s deployment. His care provider unexpectedly quit. The service provider consults available resources and connects the father with them. Solutions to technical problems are often straightforward.
  • Adaptive problems are much more complex and not well defined. The answers are not known in advance but require innovation and learning. For example, a service member and his/her family may come in for service for multiple issues – PTSD, housing insecurity, job seeking help – for which you have few existing resources to offer them. You have resources to deal with one of these issues alone but the combination is beyond your organization’s ability to manage. There may not be established models and resources for working with this complex set of issues, especially in an environment where there are reduced resources. You need to find new models, partnerships and approaches to meet this family’s needs.
  • Many times the challenges faced by family service providers involve a combination of technical and adaptive problems; sometimes described as complicated problems. These are still tough challenges but you can more readily define them more than adaptive challenges. But their solutions may not be clear and learning is required. Much of our work tends to fall in this arena. For example, the homeless family above may live in a community where there are complex array of services available but you may not be knowledgeable about them. Learning about them helps you point them in the right direction for addressing their issues. In addition, you learn in the process the importance of helping community resources understand the unique needs of military families.

How to apply to your work

These three kinds of change are often placed on a continuum with complicated problems wedged between routine and adaptive problems (see figure 1).  Heifetz, Linsky & Grashow (2009) go on to describe the kind of leadership needed to address complex problems or changes as adaptive leadership.  Basic to this model is the idea that a leader understands the nature of the problem or change – whether it is routine, complicated or adaptive – and applies the appropriate strategies for addressing the problem.  We do not want to apply a technical solution to an adaptive challenge (i.e., it is not strong enough to effect change) nor do we want to apply an adaptive solution to a technical problem (i.e., it is over kill and wastes valuable resources).

My experience is that the bulk of our work with organizational change lies in the middle of the continuum. At first, the situation seems overwhelming and very complex – adaptive.  But as we begin to learn more and work with others to address the situation, routine or technical problems emerge for which we can begin addressing. Oftentimes, though, we need to take adaptive approaches overall to effectively weather the changes.   These approaches involve thoughtfully defining the problem, changing our relationships and approaches to the work, including the people with the problem in the work of solving it, and experimenting with solutions (and permitting failure).

blog pic

Figure 1

If you are interested in learning more about adaptive challenges and adaptive leadership, please see the resources listed below:

Five Steps for Leading through Adaptive Change

Technical Problems vs. Adaptive Challenges

Perspectives on Change:  Ron Heifetz

To end the story I began with …

The budget cut for SNAP Ed I referenced at the beginning of this blog ended with the funding being reinstated in early 2014. Of course, this news was wholeheartedly welcomed but today we still are practicing adaptive leadership to invest the funds and deal with the negative fallout from staff layoffs. To address the budget cut, the program re-organized and down-sized its staff to meet the decreased resources. Now we are ramping up hiring of new staff to improve the quality and reach of the program.  This ramping up brings its own set of challenges and stressors. I’ve learned losing resources and gaining resources require adaptive leadership to address the challenges.  Take a few minutes to post your thoughts about your adaptive challenges and your experience addressing them.

Heifetz, R. A., Linsky, M., & Grashow, A. (2009). The practice of adaptive leadership: Tools and tactics for changing your organization and the world. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Press.


Maternal Support for Expecting Military Moms

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Creative Commons [Flickr, Nadine Maternity03, July 9, 2010]
Creative Commons [Flickr, Nadine Maternity03, July 9, 2010]
Research suggests that pregnant women with deploying military husbands have greater difficulty adapting to motherhood than women without this stressor.  Weis and Ryan [1] evaluated the effectiveness of a mentoring program designed to promote fetal attachment, adaptation, and self-esteem for pregnant military wives.

For all new mothers or moms having another child, the family and social support that the mother receives during her pregnancy influences adaptation to motherhood.  Support from the husband is the most significant factor in adaptation, but another important factor is the role of the maternal grandmother of the unborn child.  When the maternal grandmother is not available to act as a role model, other women such as the paternal grandmother may serve as that role model.  Frequently, military families are geographically separated and may not be available for mentoring the new mom.  In these instances, providing a mentor with experience as a mom and a military wife may enhance the new mother’s adaptation to motherhood.

In this study, the researchers conducted a randomized controlled study of women in their first trimester of pregnancy at Elgin Air Force Base to evaluate the effect of providing a mentoring relationship to pregnant women in the military.  At total of 65 women were included in the study.  Twenty-nine women participated in the Mentors Offering Maternal Support (MOMS) program, consisting of 8 group sessions following the MOMS curriculum. The groups were led by a trained mentor (all with experience as mothers) and unlimited support.  Classes were structured so that the women could talk about their pregnancy experiences, reflect on motherhood, discuss coping with the changes experienced during pregnancy, and provide support for each other.  Pre-natal maternal adaptation, maternal/fetal attachment, self-esteem, perceived community support, and program satisfaction were measured, corresponding with each trimester of the pregnancy.

Women with the most contact with their husbands showed significantly higher levels of self-esteem.  Women who maintained contact with their husbands also reported lower levels of anxiety related to their relationship, fostering a sense of worthiness and understanding from their husbands.  The women participating in the MOMS program did not show a significant difference in adaptation, attachment, or self-esteem when compared with the women who did not participate in the program.  It is possible that factors such as the short duration of the program, and relationships with mentors and participants could have affected the results, or that measures used could assess impact. It also may be that the curriculum does not effectively assist women in the areas of interest.

Support from husbands and from a mentor, whether another mom in the family or another mother, can potentially provide a lot of support to new mothers. Adjusting well to motherhood can ultimately benefit the child. Source of support for pregnant and new mothers should be considered when working with this population.



[1] Weis, K. L., & Ryan, T. W. (2012). Mentors Offering Maternal Support: A support intervention for military mothers. JOGNN: Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing41(2), 303-314. doi:10.1111/j.1552-6909.2012.01346.x

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Upcoming Caregiver Webinar: Building Trust & Credibility with Clients

Remember to join the MFLN Military Caregiving team for our upcoming, monthly professional development webinar on, ‘Empowering Those We Help: Building Trust and Credibility.’ Event details are below.

Time: 11:00 a.m. Eastern
Date: Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Event Location: https://learn.extension.org/events/2125
(*Click on the webinar flyer below to download and share with your networks.)

The goal of the 60-minute professional development course is to provide an overview of strategies for you, the military helping professional, in serving as effective resources for families. During the training you will be able to increase your knowledge of key characteristics of professional development and factors associated with establishing credibility and trust with your military families. Focus will be given on how you can facilitate and implement effective problem-solving and other activities with families through a collaborative approach.

CEU Credit Available!

The Military Families Learning Network has applied for 1.0 National Association of Social Workers (NASW) continuing education credit for credentialed participants. Certificates of Completion will also be available for training hours as well. For more information on CEU credits go to: NASW Continuing Education Instructions. 

Interested in Joining the Webinar?

*No registration is required; simply go to, Empowering Those We Help: Building Trust and Credibility, the day of the event to join. The webinar is hosted by the Department of Defense Connect System (DCS), but is open to the public. It is strongly suggested that when using the DCS system to open the webinar on Google Chrome for both PC and MAC connections. If this is not an option, Internet Explorer may be used if connecting via PC. Safari and Firefox are not compatible with this DCS platform.

For those who cannot connect to the DCS site, an alternative viewing of this presentation will be running on Ustream.

Webinar Flyer – Download

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on July 10, 2015.