Category Archives: child care

The Impact of Psychological Maltreatment

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich

What is psychological maltreatment?

Hard To Stop Crying…, Peter Käuflin, Flickr, 2011

 

The term psychological maltreatment (PM) includes both emotional abuse and emotional neglect, and can represent a diminished attachment between the caregiver and the child, resulting in a lack of development in essential capacities such as self-regulation or self-acceptance. PM is different from dysfunctional parenting, which may be characterized by inconsistent or chaotic parenting. PM represents a chronic, escalating pattern of emotional abuse and neglect [1]. Psychological maltreatment can be difficult to determine. As the authors point out, there is not a strong social taboo associated with emotional abuse or emotional neglect and therefore it may be underreported.

Using the National Child Traumatic Stress Network Core Data Set (CDS) a sample of 5,616 children with a lifetime exposure to physical abuse, sexual abuse, or psychological maltreatment were divided into distinct categories and assessed according to PTSD, externalizing and internalizing behaviors, trauma history, and severity.

Findings from the study supported earlier research which showed that PM produced adverse outcomes in children that were the same or even more severe than the outcomes of children who had been physically or sexually abused. The researchers noted that there was some evidence that PM was the most consistent predictor of internalizing problems and the strongest indicator of substance abuse when compared with physical or sexual abuse. Indicators of PM were associated with externalizing problems at a level similar to that of physical abuse, and was even a stronger predictor than sexual abuse.

In practice, determining that PM is occurring can be challenging, but it is important not to disregard PM in assessing children and adolescents because it plays such an important role in the child’s development. As this study highlights, symptoms of PTSD, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, substance abuse, or attachment problems can be the result of emotional abuse or emotional neglect (PM), and could potentially be even more damaging to child development than physical or sexual abuse.

Resource:

[1]Spinazzola, J., Hodgdon, H., Liang, L.J., Ford, J.D., Layne, C.M., Pynoos, R.S., Stolbach, B., & Kisiel, C. (2014). Unseen wounds: The contribution of psychological maltreatment to child and adolescent mental health and risk outcomes in a national sample. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 6(Suppl 1), S18-S28. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0037766

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, You Tube, and on LinkedIn.

Emotional Abuse in Military Families

Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

According to recent research by Foran, Heyman & Slep (2014) and the United States Air Force Family Advocacy Research Program [1], emotional abuse can be an early warning sign of future physical abuse. While most people can engage in some negative behavior towards their partners, this study focused on clinically significant emotional abuse (CS-EA), which the authors defined as “emotional abuse that results in significant and impairing fear, stress, or sadness/depression” [1]. The authors wanted to determine what environmental factors were associated with CS-EA.

First Army Division East soldiers help Habitat for Humanity with clean-up efforts, DVIDS, 2012

The study used a sample of 42,744 active duty military (34,713 men and 8,031 women) and 17,226 civilian spouses (879 men and 16,347 women) who completed web-based surveys measuring environmental factors across four levels:

  • Individual level: Self-efficacy (ability to cope with stress, manage work and family demands), perceived financial stress, physical well-being, alcohol problems, and years in the military
  • Family level: Support from spouse, relationship satisfaction, family income, marriage length, and number of children, spousal deployment support
  • Work level: Support from leadership, workgroup cohesion, work relationships, weeks deployed, hours worked, and satisfaction with the Air Force
  • Community level – Community cohesion, support from neighbors, formal agencies, social support, community safety, and community stressors.

As expected, individual and family factors were closely related to CS-EA. In addition, other important factors to consider in clinical practice and further research are a subset of work and community factors:

  • Greater community cohesion and support from neighbors was related to reduced risk of CS-EA for active duty military men
  • Fewer hours worked was related to a reduced risk of CS-EA for women
  • Across all levels, more support from leadership was related to lower levels of risk for CS-EA in civilian women.

When developing treatment plans for victims of emotional abuse, the environment of the victim and the perpetrator play an important role in the risk of continued emotional abuse and the risk of future physical abuse. Pay special attention to neighborhood relationships, perceived community cohesion, workload, and the perceived level of support from military leadership.

Resources

[1] Foran, H., Heyman, R., Slep, A., & US Air Force Family Advocacy Res. (2014). Emotional abuse and its unique ecological correlates among military personnel and spouses. Psychology of Violence, 4(2), 128-142. doi:10.1037/a0034536

 

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, You Tube, and on LinkedIn.

Resource Discovery: NPR Military Children in Public School

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

This month, PBS is highlighting the emotional challenges and resilience of children with a parent in the military in their PBS Weekly Edition. According to PBS, military children move nine times on average before they graduate. The majority of children are in public schools. This can create problems of feeling displaced, misunderstood, and excluded. The first podcast provides a look at the challenges that military children face in public schools.

Flickr, IITA International School children and their teacher, 2010

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, You Tube, and on LinkedIn.

Preparing Caregivers to Communicate Effectively Using Three Types of Communication Skills Webinar

iStock_000011132527LargeBy Carlee Latham, MFLN–Military Caregiving

Remember to mark your calendars for this Thursday, April 10 at 11:00 am EDT, as the Military Caregiving concentration hosts a professional development webinar on caregiver communication skills.

Preparing Caregivers to Communicate Effectively Using Three Types of Communication Skills will focus on preparing caregivers to have those difficult conversations with a variety of individuals, including military professionals. The presenter, Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Ph.D., will help caregivers and professionals:

  • Distinguish between the communication skills of “I messages”, Assertive, and Aikido and the types of situations they are best used in.
  • Identify caregiver situations where professionals could use one of the communication styles.
  • Prepare to use one of the communication skills.

For more information on Thursday’s webinar visit the eXtension website here. Event materials, like the presentation slides and handouts are available within the eXtension Learn site.

The Military Caregiving concentration has applied for 1.00 continuing education credit hour from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Credentialed participants may contact woundedwarrior@ag.tamu.edu for more information.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on April 8, 2014.

Family Factors Affecting Child Well-being

By Kacy Mixon, PhD, LMFT

Aaron Gilson, 2012Family dynamics, and most notably parent-child interactions, play a large role in children’s educational, social and emotional well-being [1]. Children learn how to manage their emotions through observation, modeling, and social referencing [2] experienced not only in school and community contexts but also in their home life.

Researchers have reported significant associations between the family dynamics, children’s school readiness and children’s approaches to learning which is conceptualized as characteristics and behaviors children display while engaging in learning [3, 4]. Researchers have also reported positive associations among parental nurturance, discipline, teaching and children’s language and school readiness factors [3]. Studies looking at family factors such as parental emotional distress, parenting styles, and home activities have also shown that these can moderate child well-being [5].

For children who have been exposed to traumatic events in the home such as domestic violence, the negative impacts to mental health, social and academic functioning is often severe. A recent study found that parent’s level of stress can mediate the effects of child trauma on mental health [6].

What does this mean for professionals?

These research findings demonstrate a need to tailor child and family interventions to include developing healthy bonds and interactions. It may be useful to help families implement strategies that not only build healthy parent-child interactions but also assist in finding ways to decrease parenting stress

Resources:

1. Bodovski, K., & Youn, M. (2010). Love, discipline and elementary school achievement: The role of family emotional climate. Social Science Research, 39, 585-595.

2. Morris, A.S., Silk, J.S., Steinberg, L., Myers, S.S., & Robinson, L.R. (2007). The role of the family context in the development of emotion regulation. Social Development, 16(2), 361-388.

3. Brooks-Gunn, J., & Markman, L.B. (2005). The contribution of parenting to ethnic and racial gaps in school readiness. The Future of Children, 15(1), 139-168.

4. Hair, E., Halle, T., Terry-Humen, E., Lavelle, B., & Calkins, J. (2006). Children’s school readiness in the ECLS-K: Predictions to academic, health, and social outcomes in first grade. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 21, 431-454.

5. Linver, M.R., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Kohen, D.E. (2002). Family processes as pathways from income to young children’s development. Developmental Psychology, 38(5), 719-734.

6. Roberts, Y.H., Campbell, C.A., Ferguson, M., & Crusto, C.A. (2013). The role of parenting stress in young children’s mental health functioning after exposure to family violence. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 26(5), 605-612.

This post was written by Kacy Mixon, PhD, LMFT, Social Media Specialist. She works with other members of the Family Development team to support the development of military professionals working with families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network here and on Facebook.

Resource Discovery: Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey Report

By Kacy Mixon, PhD, LMFT

Did you know image

Blue Star Famlies LogoBlue Star Families, a non-profit organization founded by military spouses in 2009 to raise awareness of military family struggles, spearheaded an online survey in November 2012 to examine major obstacles that military families may face. Today’s “Resource Discovery” features the website that houses the findings of this survey in which over 5,100 military family members participated. The major themes covered included pay/benefits, retirement, military spouse employment, effects of deployment on children, and education of military children. The survey revealed financial as well as health and wellness concerns as the top military family issues. Below are a few of the other findings:

  • 35% of respondents listed pay/benefits as their top military family life issue.
  • 77% of respondents indicated having 1 or more children living at home.
  • 30% of respondents participated in mental health counseling to assist with the negative impacts of deployment.
  • 24% of spouse respondents reported post-traumatic stress symptoms in their service member.
  • 72% of participants reported that social media was important in communicating with their service member during deployment.
  • Of the service members who contemplated suicide, 30% reported not seeking suicide support services.

The Blue Star Families website provides not only the comprehensive survey results, but also an abridged version supplying the highlights in PDF format. It is accessible to the public and can be used by professionals providing services to military families to explore unique concerns that these families they may have.

This post was written by Kacy Mixon, PhD, LMFT, Social Media Specialist. She works with other members of the Family Development team to support the development of military professionals working with families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network here and on Facebook.

 

Resource Discovery: Childhood Maltreatment Effects on the Brain

By Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT

NPR-Childhood Maltreatment

 

“Maltreatment during childhood can lead to long-term changes in brain circuits that process fear, researchers say. This could help explain why children who suffer abuse are much more likely than others to develop problems like anxiety and depression later [in life].”

We have discussed effects of trauma on children in previous posts. Today’s Resource Discovery focuses on new research findings that add to the numerous effects that children often experience. A recent National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast of All Things Considered reported findings from a study exploring the effects of childhood maltreatment on the brain. Researchers found that abuse experienced in childhood can change brain circuits that process fear and show connection to adolescents developing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Furthermore, girls demonstrated increased vulnerability to brain changes caused by stress or trauma. For more information on this study, listen to the full web broadcast here.

This post was written by Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT, Social Media Specialist. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network here and on Facebook.

 

Single Military Parents: Prevalence & Effects

By Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT

Parenting demands can be incredibly difficult to manage, especially when coupled with work obligations. It comes as no surprise, then, that single parents who are juggling the day-to-day responsibilities associated with caring for their children can feel increasingly overwhelmed when faced with parenting demands. Circumstances surrounding single parenting roles can involve added responsibilities of household management and less time for themselves to socialize with other adults. One study found that 31% of single fathers felt that time was their major concern. Research has also shown single mothers report less satisfaction with their emotional support systems, more stress, and poor well-being including feeling lonely, strained, and tired.[1] There are around 73,000 active-duty single parents in the military. [2] These individuals comprise over 5% of the overall active-duty military population.[2] The image below shows the breakdown of single parents by military branch [2]:

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 5.57.10 PM

Single military parents face the dual challenges of military family life and single parenthood. For this reason single military parents often need complex strategies for balancing their military career with family life. [1]

Beyond financial hardship commonly experienced by single parents, 53 % of single military mothers and 55 % of single military fathers have reported difficulty managing work and family stress.  Research indicates few differences among single military mothers and fathers and occupational stress. [1] However, one difference shown for single fathers was that as the number of years in the military grew, the number of supportive people in their lives decreased. Within the civilian population, there are more single mothers. [3] In the military, however, there are more single fathers. In fact, for every single military mother, there are 2.8 single military fathers. [1]

Single Military Parents and Deployment: There are some beneficial military programs that assist with deployment and parenting demands of military personnel such as family readiness groups and some policies can help to optimize the length and timing of deployment to meet needs of families. For single military parents, relocation of children during deployment can be an added stressor causing additional family stress as relatives or child caregivers may be located hundreds of miles away. To relocate their children before they have to deploy, single parents may have to take personal leave time and pay for travel expenses out of pocket. [4] 

The predominance of single parents in the military coupled with documented added stressors associated with this family configuration, mean that this is an important issue for professionals who work with military families to consider.  Awareness of common struggles faced by single military parents may be useful when coming up with strategies for prevention and intervention.

Resources:

1. Kelley, M.L. (2006). Single military parents in the new millennium. In C.A. Castro, A.B. Adler, and T.W. Britt (Eds.), Military life: The psychology of serving in peace and combat (pp. 93-103). Wesport, CT: Praeger Security International

2. Wilson, E. (May, 2010). Single moms juggle military, home demands. American Forces Press Services. Retrieved from http://www.defense.gov/News/NewsArticle.aspx?ID=59252. 

3. Blanchard, S. (2012). Are the needs of single parents serving in the Air Force being met? Advances in Social Work, 13(1), 83-97.

4. Goodman, P., Turner, A., Agazio, J., Throop, M., Padden, D., Greiner, S., & Hillier, S. (2013). Deployment of military mothers: Supportive and non-supportive military programs, processes and policies. Military Medicine, 178(7), 729-734.

This post was written by Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT, Social Media Specialist. She works with other members of the Family Development team to support the development of military professionals working with families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network here and on Facebook.

 

Why Pre-Deployment is Difficult for Every Member of a Military Family

saying goodbye to son_Navy_croppedThe separation of deployment is a difficult time for military families – there’s no doubt about that! What may be less obvious, especially for those who haven’t seen it up close, is that the months before deployment are also very difficult. Understanding the unique circumstances and stressors of pre-deployment and how they affect young children is the first step toward helping them cope.

Preparing to Leave: Parents’ Experience

The stressors of pre-deployment fall squarely on the shoulders of the parents in the family. Most will experience some if not all of the following challenges.

LOTS to do! During this time, service members and their spouses must attend to many, many financial, legal, and other administrative affairs. In addition, the parents may need to make arrangements to ensure that the family’s needs are met while the service member is deployed, such as relocating to be nearer to extended family.

Distancing of the service member. As the deployment draws near, the service member often spends time away from the family for training and preparation with his or her unit. He or she begins bonding with the other unit members and focusing on the upcoming mission. Though necessary for the service member, the result for the family is psychologically distancing even when he or she is at home.

Making the most of the time together. On the other hand, the spouse may very well be trying to make the most out of the final weeks and days together, both relationally and practically. Spouses create long “honey-do” lists for the service member and plan memorable occasions together as a couple or family before the long separation.

More conflict. With one parent pulling away and the other trying to hold tighter, all while under the pressure of a mile-long “to-do” list, it’s no wonder that big arguments between couples are very common in the final weeks before departure.

Anxiety. Underlying everything for both parents is worry about what will happen once the service member is deployed. The worries that each wrestles with are too numerous to list here but the point to remember is that anxiety about the future creates an underlying level of stress that makes everything else harder.

For single parents preparing for deployment, the circumstances may be somewhat different but they are no less stressful, and perhaps even more so, as the service member must make arrangements for alternative care for their children while they are away.

Children’s Experience

pensive boy_close-upSo how do these adult challenges impact their young children? Though they are not old enough to understand the reasons for changes in their parents, even very young children definitely notice them. The stressors that parents experience as they prepare for deployment inevitably show in their faces, voices and behaviors, even if they aren’t aware of it. But young children are keenly aware that something is different. They notice that a parent is less attentive and more distracted or occupied with other things. They notice that a parent is more irritable and less happy than usual. They notice the faces and voices of their parents when they are talking (or arguing). They notice when their daily routines are disrupted as parents try to manage all the tasks that must be completed. They notice when a parent isn’t as available to play, read or talk to them.

These changes in their parents usually cause feelings of confusion and insecurity in young children, which they express in their behavior and mood. These troubling changes in their children can add yet another layer of stress and anxiety on already burdened parents.

Mother comforting her son

A Safety Net of Care

The good news is that a knowledgeable, attentive, compassionate child care provider can do a lot to ease young children’s anxiety and, in turn, provide parents with the comfort of knowing they have a trusted partner who will help their children cope.

Coming up in a future blog post, we’ll talk about some specific strategies for supporting young children and their parents during the pre-deployment phase. In the meantime, explore our articles and recorded webinars, many of which deal with young military-connected children’s stress and strategies for reducing it.

 

This blog post was written by Kathy Reschke, Child Care Leader at Military Families Learning NetworkSource: http://blogs.extension.org/militaryfamilies/?p=4538

Resources Discovery: When a Child’s Parent Has PTSD

 By Kacy A. Mixon, M.S., LMFT

DoD DaddyThis week’s RESOURCE DISCOVERY features a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website housing a factsheet about how children typically respond to parents struggling with PTSD. The factsheet outlines the relevance of looking at how PTSD in parents affects military children and also provides insight into how children respond. The social and behavioral problems that these children may show are addressed, along with potential risks children may experience related to emotional problems and secondary traumatization. The factsheet also offers steps that parents can take to prevent and alleviate the effects of PTSD on children. Professionals working with military families can utilize this resource to not only become more aware of how parental PTSD impacts children but also to better inform military parents struggling with this issue.

 

Book-Finding my wayAlso featured is a book called Finding My Way: A Teen’s Guide to Living with a Parent who has Experienced Trauma. Authors, Michelle D. Sherman, PhD and DeAnne M. Sherman, offer a three-part book that can help adolescents address issues related to having a parent struggling with PTSD.

“This honest and respectfully written manual serves as a roadmap for teens who are trying to find their way.”

This is an interactive book that not only explains PTSD but also co-occurring problems (such as substance abuse) commonly associated with PTSD. In addition, this resource for teens encourages readers to address the uncomfortable emotions and provides opportunities to learn about and develop healthy coping strategies including finding expressive outlets.

 

This post was written by Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT, Social Media Specialist. She works with other members of the Family Development team to support the development of military professionals working with families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network here and on Facebook.