Category Archives: network literacy

Partners’ Perceptions of PTSD Symptoms

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Creative Commons [Flickr, I Against I, January 1, 2012]
Creative Commons [Flickr, I Against I, January 1, 2012]
Recently, two researchers from Virginia Tech [1] examined factors related to reintegration stress from the perspective of military members and military service member partners.  The findings of the study offer insight into how partners may view military members’ mental health and PTSD symptoms, and how these symptoms impact reintegration after deployment.

Participants in the study totaled 675 and included 380 service members and 295 partners of service members. All participants were the parent of at least one minor child, and all service members had experienced one or more deployments. Participants and partners were asked if the service member had received a diagnosis of PTSD, and if they believed that the military member experienced symptoms of PTSD (regardless of diagnosis).  The service members and the partners rated their perceptions of the military members’ mental health by responding to a survey rating the frequency of 5 emotional states including: nervous, calm, downhearted, happy, and discouraged.  Reintegration stress was determined using a measure designed specifically for this study, with survey questions tailored to military members and partners. It is notable that the partners were not necessarily those of the military service members in the study, so data analyses were not from family dyads and were not linked.

The results of the study indicated that the presence of PTSD symptoms, self-reported mental health, and the mental health of the military member as reported by the partner all affected the level of reintegration stress in military families. Military members and partners both rated their mental health symptoms, as well as those of their partner, as high. Partners’ perceptions of PTSD-related symptoms in military service members was a big contributor to reintegration stress. Partners also reported that the military member’s symptoms affected daily life more than the military member did. Interestingly, having an actual diagnosis of PTSD was not significantly related to reintegration stress in this study.

When working with military service members who have experienced deployment and their partners, it is important to consider individual perceptions and take that into account when treating couples or families.  In some instances, partners may be more acutely aware of PTSD symptoms, and their impact, than the service members themselves.



[1] Marek, L. I., & D’Aniello, C. (2014). Reintegration stress and family mental health: Implications for therapists working with reintegrating military families. Contemporary Family Therapy, 36(4), 443-451. doi:10.1007/s10591-014-9316-4

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.

VLE #MFLNchat recap

The Personal Finance Virtual Learning Event, held June 2-4, featured daily Twitter chats focused on the topics discussed in that day’s webinar. The webinar speakers were on hand to answer questions and to dig deeper in to the topics discussed in the 90-minute sessions. Here, you can view all the tweets shared during these daily chats, including great discussion on promoting positive financial behavior change and resources to share and use with clients.

Adolescents from Military Families: Attitudes Toward Mental Health Care

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich

Creative Commons [Flickr, 2015 RT Convention YA Alley, May 26, 2015]
Creative Commons [Flickr, 2015 RT Convention YA Alley, May 26, 2015]
We reviewed the barriers to mental health care reported by military wives in the previous blogs:  Military Wives Matter and Mental Health Care Needs of Military Wives. What are the barriers expressed by teens in military families?

Military children are 2.5 times more likely to develop psychological problems than American children in general, but their utilization of mental health services is low. Adolescents from military families experience stressors unique to the military environment, such as parental deployment and frequent moves. As a result of these stressors they may be more likely to display depressive disorders and/or behavioral disorders. In a recent study by Becker and colleagues, the researchers used structured focus groups and interviews to develop feedback on the barriers to seeking mental health treatment among military families with adolescents [1].

Focus groups and interviews were conducted with 12 parents of adolescent children who had experienced deployment, 13 adolescents with an average age of 13, and 20 mental health providers who had worked with adolescents from military families. Over one-half of the parents participating reported that their adolescent was experiencing emotional or behavioral problems.  A total of 7 focus groups or interview discussions were conducted with the 25 family members.  Service providers participated in individual interviews in person, or by telephone.  Themes that emerged in the analysis were divided into two groups: (1) Internal barriers related to attitudes; and (2) External barriers related to time and effort or financial concerns. The most often cited internal barriers related to attitudes for not seeking mental health care among teens were: lack of interest or perceived relevance, stigma, an ethic of self-reliance, and confidentiality concerns.

Teens most often reported a lack of perceived relevance in seeking help.  Teens reported that they would not participate in services that “required them to talk about their feelings” or that they didn’t need help or did not have problems.  Adolescents also reported that they were self-reliant and wanted to “figure things out” on their own and cited their military family’s attitude of self-reliance.  This attitude of self-reliance in military families was consistent with therapists’ observations – acknowledging military families’ strong sense of independence.  They also expressed concerns about what others would think of them if they attended therapy, particularly other family members who had a negative view of therapy. Confidentiality was the most often cited reason for not seeking help when all three groups were considered, and was often related to concerns about the effect of seeking mental health care on the military member’s career.

Additionally, external barriers were cited as a reason for not pursuing mental health services. Time, effort, logistical concerns, and financial barriers were all found to be external barriers impacting the decision to pursue mental health services. Families and therapists reported a high number of activities and appointments during the teen years, and the ability to handle the busy schedules becomes even more challenging for families during a parental deployment, when the burden of family responsibilities fall to the remaining parent.

When addressing the needs of a teen it is important to consider that a teen’s attitude toward seeking help for the stressors of military life may vary from those of their parents.  While the ethic of self-reliance may be a family norm, considering barriers due to a perceived lack of relevance and stigma may be particularly important when working with adolescents. It is also important to consider the external realities faced by many military families that can make participation in therapy challenging.


[1] Becker, S. J., Swenson, R. R., Esposito-Smythers, C., Cataldo, A. M., & Spirito, A. (2014). Barriers to seeking mental health services among adolescents in military families. Professional Psychology: Research And Practice, 45(6), 504-513. doi:10.1037/a003612.

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.

Twitter Chats: A Professional Development Tool


By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®

Rutgers Cooperative Extension

In early June, as part of the 3-Day Virtual Learning Event (VLE), the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) held a series of three Twitter chats using the hash tag #MFLNchat. The eXtension VLE Learn page with archived webinars is  located here. The purpose of the Twitter chats was to extend conversations in the “chat” section of the webinars about encouraging positive financial behaviors through motivation, coaching, and counseling. A Storify summary of the three Twitter chats can be found here. Storify is a free online application that allows people to create “stories” from the text, links, and photos found within in tweets and Facebook and Google+ messages.

Prior to the three Twitter chats, a “Lite” Twitter Cohort was held to introduce chat participants to the basics of using Twitter. Each day for two weeks, cohort 36 cohort participants received e-mailed messages about using Twitter. Materials for the cohort are available here. Participants used the hashtag #twittercohort to hold asynchronous conversations with one another.

Twitter chats, on the other hand, involve synchronous conversations. As the number of Twitter users has grown since its inception in 2006, so has the use of Twitter for financial education. An increasingly outreach method is Twitter chats, which use the hashtag (#) symbol to hold a “conversation” through an organized stream of tweets from people interested in the same topic (e.g., credit).

The formatting convention used to organize Twitter chat threads is Q1 for Question 1 and A1 for participant responses to that question, with 8 to 10 different questions per one-hour chat. All users have do is log in to a Twitter application such as or at a designated time and time zone, type in the hashtag for the chat, and start responding to and/or asking questions to engage with others.

The MFLN plans future professional development Twitter chats and encourages Personal Financial Management Program (PFMP) staff to participate. Feel free to “lurk” for a while, if you’d like, and then jump in. Another good idea is to observe, and then participate in, these regular personal finance Twitter chats: #creditchat (Experian, 3 p.m. ET on Wednesdays), #wbchat (WiseBread, 3 p.m. ET on Thursdays), #cashchat (@MsMadamMoney, 12 noon ET on Fridays), and #mcchat (Money Crashers, 4 p.m. ET on Fridays).

Below are some screen shots that further explain how to navigate a Twitter chat:
  1. Go to as
  2. In the top, right corner click on “Sign In”
  3. If you are already logged into your Twitter account, this box will prompt you to “Authorize TweetChat…to use your account”. You then click on “Authorize App”


  1. If not it will ask you to log into your Twitter account. Log in with your Twitter handle and password.


  1. Then, in the top left hand corner, type in the hashtag you are following and then press, “Go”


For Example:
  • Experian Tweetchat’s hashtag is “#CreditChat”
  • Wisebread Tweetchat’s hashtag is “#WBchat”
  1. You will then be taken to a stream of Tweets, only with the hashtag you typed in during the last step.


  1. You can then Tweet or Retweet whatever you wish, and the application will add the hashtag on for you so that you too can join the conversation!




Use these icons when you are tweeting:

 RespondThis allows you to Tweet at, or respond to, someone directly.

RetweetThis allows you to ReTweet someone else’s tweet; i.e., send it to your Twitter followers.

FavoriteThis allows you to Favorite someone’s Tweet; i.e., indicate that you like what they have shared.

Happy tweeting! I hope to see you on a personal finance Twitter chat soon.

Military Spouses of Children with Special Care Needs

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Creative Commons [Flickr, Little J makes big strides with the help of private-duty nurse, April 8, 2010]
Creative Commons [Flickr, Little J makes big strides with the help of private-duty nurse, April 8, 2010]
What social supports are important in maintaining the health of military spouses with special needs children?  Are they different than spouses without a special needs child? Researchers Farrell, Bowen, and Swick recently examined social supports and resiliency among military spouses who have children with special care needs [1].

Military families function within a demanding environment, sometimes involving a parent who is frequently deployed, experiencing numerous relocations, and having rapidly changing social networks due to the relocation of neighbors and friends.  While raising a child with disabilities can increase stress in the family, many families manage to adapt and thrive.  Recently, models of family support have focused on family and community support systems and their positive influence on family health.

The military provides a broad range of support for spouses with children who have special needs, including educational and developmental services, family information and education programs, and support from military leaders who have an assigned responsibility for the welfare of service members in their command.  Social support is also available to spouses through the military member, family, friends, and the community.

Participants in the Farrell, Bowen and Swick study included 775 female spouses who did not have a special needs child, and 147 female spouses who did have a special needs child.  The researchers used the Support and Resiliency Inventory-Spouse survey to examine eight potential sources of social network support and then compared the sources of support with self-reported coping success, parent management, and support for others.  Sources of social support were evaluated individually and included:

  • Military member
  • Relationships
  • Extended family
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Military unity
  • Community
  • Overall military

Results of the study indicated that spouses with special needs children have significantly less support than spouses who do not have a special needs child.  Support from friends showed the largest difference in support, with parents of special needs children reporting significantly lower support.  Military member support showed the smallest variance between groups.

Support is important in maintaining mental health.  When working with parents with special needs children, it is important to consider that parents may receive less support from their family and friends than families that do not include a special needs child.  There may be many reasons for this. For example, it can be challenging to find appropriate childcare when you have a special needs child, which can make participation in social activities more challenging. This could lead to parental isolation, and more challenges finding and receiving social support. Helping families find support groups or agencies that provide supportive services can be beneficial. Encouraging the development of support systems that include spouses, close relationships, and family may help to boost resiliency and mental health in military families.


[1] Farrell, A. F., Bowen, G. L., & Swick, D. C. (2014). Network supports and resiliency among U.S. military spouses with children with special health care needs. Family Relations, 63(1), 55-70. doi:10.1111/fare.12045

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.

Adventure Camps – Military Families Reconnecting in a Wilderness Setting

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

University of Kentucky [Military Family Programs, 2015 Kentucky Military Family Camps]
University of Kentucky [Military Family Programs, 2015 Kentucky Military Family Camps]
Wilderness and adventure therapy programs are typically used with adolescents dealing with a range of mental health problems as well as behavioral issues.  Faculty from the University of Kentucky, partnered with Perdue University, adapted an existing curriculum (Blue to You; altered and titled Campfire Curriculum) for use with military families, and used existing wilderness and adventure therapy models to design a program aimed at helping teenage children and their service member parents reconnect.

In wilderness and adventure therapy programs, action-oriented activities are used to elicit emotion and provide immediate feedback.   Programming is specifically designed to encourage self-disclosure.  In this  camp model, family activities were developed to reconnect military parents and their teenage children through team-building exercises, cooperative problem-solving, utilization of creative coping strategies, communication, and teamwork.  Activity facilitators used were from outside the military and held at least a Bachelor’s level degree in areas related to outdoor and experiential education.  Mental health professionals with a marriage and family therapy background facilitated group discussions each evening at the end of the day’s activities.

A total of 25 military parents and 3 spouses of military parents participated in the study.  Ages of parents ranged from 34 to 52 years, and they were predominately married males.  The total time in service ranged from 2.5 years to 26.0 years.  The total time deployed ranged from 0 to 96 months.

Surveys were distributed on the last day of the camp and included 3 open-ended questions/statements related to skills and knowledge gained during the camp experience, and potential application of the camp experience at home.  Conventional content analysis techniques were used to analyze the surveys. In the analysis, 4 topics became apparent: (1) The role of communication; (2) Quality time together; (3) Working as a team; and, (4) Parenting.

Over 80% of the participants noted that their communication had improved.  Participants noted that the time gathered as a group provided members an opportunity to share ideas on how to communicate with family members.  Participants also commented that by removing themselves from an environment with daily responsibilities, they were able to spend more time developing these important relationships.  Less prevalent themes emerged around team building and how the family functioned better working as a team, as well as how to work with their teenagers.  Some participants commented on how they learned about sharing feelings with their children rather than giving orders.  Experiencing the difference between family relationships and military command relationships is apparent when the themes of teams and parenting are considered in the context of military families, and has implications for clinical practice. Military members are accustomed to a role of leadership in combat – a situation that requires clear objectives, roles and responsibilities.  Teenage children, as they evolve into adults may appreciate a more collaborative role or a role of shared responsibilities as they develop.  In practice, it is important to consider the service member’s leadership style in the family, whether working with families that are reintegrating following deployment or not. Furthermore, the curriculum utilized in this study appears to have had a positive impact on family communication and bonding, and wilderness adventure camps may serve as a helpful adjunct to reintegration efforts.


[1] Ashurst, K., Smith, L., Little, C., Frey, L., Werner-Wilson, T., Stephenson, L., & Werner-Wilson, R. (2014). Perceived outcomes of military-extension adventure camps for military personnel and their teenage children. American Journal of Family Therapy, 42(2), 175-189. doi:10.1080/01926187.2013.799975

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.

Resource Discovery: Enhancements to the Family Lifestyle Survey

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Blue Star Families [Military Family Lifestyle Survey]
Blue Star Families [Military Family Lifestyle Survey]
The Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey, which has been conducted annually since 2009, has been enhanced to gather more information about the mental health of military families.  The Institute of Veterans and Military Families collaborated in the development and administration of this year’s version of the survey.  Additions include:

  • New survey questions about mental health including: depression, substance abuse and stress
  • Additional questions regarding veterans’ transition, education, and use of resources

Respondents to the online survey were primarily active duty and veterans’ spouses. Key concerns voiced by survey respondents focused on financial resources: military pay and benefits, changes in retirement, and military spouse employment. The impact of deployment on children was also a big concern, with 43% of active duty spouses reporting this as an issue.  Uncertainty was also a highly reported issue, with 32% voicing concern over the uncertainty of military life.

Visit the Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle survey for more information.

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.

FD Early Intervention Webinar: Understanding Social Emotional Development

Social Emotional Development in the Early Years: Understanding Social Emotional Development

Date: June 18, 2015

Time: 11am-12:30pm Eastern


Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, Mi Nene-October 4, 2013]
Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, Mi Nene-October 4, 2013]
 Jenna Weglarz-Ward, M.Ed., and Kimberly Hile, M.Ed., will discuss the importance of social emotional development and lifelong outcomes for young children with disabilities. Weglarz-Ward and Hile will discuss specific topics including: 1) Evidence-based outcomes for young children with disabilities related to achieving developmental milestones, school and academic success, and developing life skills, 2) Social emotional developmental milestones for young children birth to five years, 3) Cultural, ethnic, racial, and linguistic influences and variations on milestone achievement, 4) Impact of disability on milestone achievement, 5) Typical challenges for children with disabilities, and 6) Parent coaching strategies to support parents’ facilitation of their children’s social emotional development.

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 CEU 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)


Promising IPV Offender Interventions

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Creative Commons [Flickr, Battling PTSD, May 24, 2010]
Creative Commons [Flickr, Battling PTSD, May 24, 2010]
In a recent blog, we highlighted a study conducted by Dr. Taft and colleagues establishing the link between PTSD and relationship problems . But, are there effective treatment solutions for perpetrators of violence?  In an article published by Dr. Taft and colleagues [1], the researchers reported on preliminary findings from an intervention that shows promise.

The authors report that intimate partner violence (IPV) is a significant problem in military couples – the frequency of violence for military couples may be as much as 3 times the frequency of violence in civilian intimate relationships.  There is limited information on the effectiveness of interventions for IPV. When the preliminary study of the Strength at Home intervention was published, the authors indicated that there were no empirically validated studies of IPV interventions in military couples.

The Strength at Home model uses a cognitive-behavioral intervention in a group setting.  The 12-week program uses a closed group format, meeting weekly in 2 hour sessions.  Initial sessions focus on education on IPV and common reactions to trauma.  Weeks 3 and 4 provide conflict management and assertiveness skills. The third phase focuses on identifying negative thought patterns contributing to anger and IPV, relating thoughts to core trauma issues, and coping with stress.  The final sessions include instruction on a range of effective communication skills, capped by a session focusing on the gains witnessed over the past 11 weeks.

Participants in the intervention were included if they had been in a recent relationship, met DSM criteria for PTSD, had a self or collateral report of physical IPV, and provided consent to contact their female partner.  The study included 6 male participants after screening and excluding participants that did not complete the assessment, intervention, and/or follow-up.  Male physical and psychological IPV was assessed prior to initiating treatment and 6 months after treatment completion.  Their female counterparts were assessed prior to the military member’s treatment and 6 months after treatment.  Preliminary study results indicated that intervention participants:

  • Perpetrated significantly lower physical IPV,
  • Showed significantly lower psychological IPV, and
  • Displayed a significant decrease in the frequency of psychological aggression,

While this study is only preliminary, the results show promise of developing a practice for treating perpetrators of IPV.  It is notable that the sample size was very small, and there was a very high drop-out rate. A randomized controlled trial of the Strength at Home intervention is currently being conducted to more systematically assess the program outcomes on a larger sample.

For more information on the Strength at Home intervention, visit our website for information on Dr. Taft’s upcoming webinar.


[1] Taft, C.T., Macdonald, A., Monson, C.M., Walling, S.M., Resick, P.A., Murphy, C.M. (2013). “Strength at home” Group intervention for military population engaging in intimate partner violence: Pilot findings. Journal of Family Violence, 28(3), 225-231. DOI: 10.1007/s10896-013-9496

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.

Early Intervention Matters: A Parent’s Perspective

By Robyn DiPietro-Wells

When I became pregnant with my first child I was full of hopes and dreams. I dreamt of all she would do, become, and accomplish. I envisioned her entire future and wondered which parent she might take after.  Would she love cheerleading and dance like me? Or would she take after her dad and play sports all her life? Maybe she’d play an instrument or be an artist. I dreamt dreams of all kinds. The future looked bright and I was excited. And isn’t that how a lot of moms feel during pregnancy?

Photo Credit: Robyn DiPietro-Wells, August 7, 2005
Photo Credit: Robyn DiPietro-Wells, August 7, 2005

Lily was born full term and was presented to me as a picture of health. However, when she was about five months old I noticed she was a bit behind on several of her motor milestones.   She wasn’t rolling over yet. She favored her left hand and never really used her right hand. She wasn’t sitting up…not even when I helped support her. I used some of my background as an elementary school teacher to informally assess her. I knew developmentally what she should be doing…and in some areas she was behind.

I initially went to our medical providers for help. I sought out a referral to a pediatric occupational (OT) and physical therapists (PT). At our very first assessment of Lily the PT and OT told me that Lily presented with symptoms typically found in infants who have had a stroke. It was as if all the air went out of the room. Never in all my life did I expect that! This was not a part of my dreams!

An MRI and a visit to a pediatric neurologist resulted in an official diagnosis of cerebral palsy due to a stroke in utero.  At that time, the best piece of advice I received was from our pediatric neurologists. They stressed the importance of starting therapy early due to the neuroplasticity of the infant brain. They never said what she wouldn’t be able to do. They simply pointed me in the direction of therapies and information! They gave me back my hope and dreams for Lily’s future by stressing the importance of early treatment and intervention.

In the first three years of Lily’s life we utilized both private therapists through our medical insurance, but also Part C Early Interventionists with the state of Virginia. Once Lily aged out of the Part C portion, at 3 years of age, we had her evaluated for Part B Special Education with our local school district. While she did not qualify for Part B, she continued to receive therapies through our medical insurance. She also participated in numerous special projects and programs at the Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in their STEP Clinic.

Photo Credit: Robyn DiPietro-Wells April 24, 2015
Photo Credit: Robyn DiPietro-Wells April 24, 2015

Today Lily is almost 10 years old.  This spring she ran her first 5K and she loves to climb the rock wall at our local YMCA! She is a top-notch student at school and participates in nearly all of the same activities as her typically developing peers. I attribute all that Lily has accomplished to two things: One, her intense hard work and perseverance and, two, early intervention, both formal Part C Early Intervention, but also starting therapies of all kinds at an early age.

It wasn’t easy. My husband was active duty Army until November 2012 and worked 125-140 hours a week. We have three children younger than Lily, one who also has special needs. I know the challenges of being both a military spouse and the mother of children with special needs. I know how hard it is to persevere with Tricare (military medical insurance) and to advocate for your child’s needs. I want MFLN readers to know that there are answers for parents, there are ways to help the children with which you work, there are ways to support the parents, and that ANYTHING is possible. Great things can happen. Great things happen when children with developmental delays receive help, therapy, and treatment early through both Part C Early Intervention and private medical insurance.

The entire MFLN Family Development Early Intervention team is here to enable service providers to help military families with children with special needs reach their highest potential.   We are dedicated to, not only your success as a provider, but also the success of the families with which you work. Please feel free to reach out to us ( and utilize the resources found within the MFLN Family Development webpage.

This post was written by Robyn DiPietro-Wells, & Michaelene M. Ostrosky, 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, YouTubeand on LinkedIn.