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Angela J. Huebner, Ph.D . Virginia Tech Exploring Military Deployment Through the Eyes of Youth: Implications for Research and Practice CYFAR 7 May 2008. Support. Researchers Jay Mancini, Professor, Department of Human Development Graduate Students

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angela j huebner ph d virginia tech ahuebner@vt edu
Angela J. Huebner, Ph.D.

Virginia Tech

Exploring Military Deployment Through the Eyes of Youth: Implications for Research and PracticeCYFAR 7 May 2008

  • Researchers
    • Jay Mancini, Professor, Department of Human Development
  • Graduate Students
    • Bradford Wiles, Susan Claus, John Butler, Courtney Powell
  • Military Family Research Institute
  • National Military Family Association
  • Services
  • The setting
  • What do we know?
  • Implications for research & practice
the setting
The Setting
  • Volunteer Fighting Force
  • Mix of Active Duty and Guard/Reserve
    • Multiple deployments
  • Families
    • 55% married; 43% of those with children
  • Death & Injury
    • “Wounded Warriors”
  • Communications—individual & media
overview of study
Overview of Study
  • Data collected in Summer 2004
  • 14 focus groups, 5 locations
  • 107 teens, ages 12-18
  • 46% female, 54% male
  • Ethnicity:
    • 61% white; 17% African-American, 7% Hispanic, 3% Pacific Islander, 1% Native American, 10% biracial
  • Service Branches
    • Mixed; 39% Army, 36% NG/AR; 10% AF; 3% Navy; 8% unsure
  • Complete report available!
data analysis
Data Analysis
  • Grounded Theory Technique (Strauss & Corbin, 1990)
  • Transcriptions
  • Cross-coding teams
  • Defining Themes
  • Atlas.ti software
content themes
  • Predeployment
  • Overall Feeling about Deployment
  • Primary Deployment Concerns
  • Stress: Normative & Deployment Related
  • Reactions to and handling stress
  • Changes: Routines & Responsibilities
  • Changes in Behaviors
  • Changes in at-home parent
  • Post-deployment & reunion
  • Informal support
  • Formal support
  • Support processes
  • Wish list resources
issues of ambiguous loss
Issues of Ambiguous Loss
  • Uncertainty & loss
  • Boundary ambiguity
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Changes in routine
  • Relationship conflict
  • Available in Family Relations, March 2007
boundary ambiguity
Boundary Ambiguity
  • “Well when my dad left, everything’s going one way when he come back, and he’s starting off right where he left so…There’s just a big clash and that starts a lot of problems…Like he forgets that he’s been gone for like a year or six months. So he still thinks we’re a lot younger and while he was gone we matured a lot over the year. And he’s still trying to treat us the way we were treated a year ago.”
  • “…Like when they come home is that like awkward bonding phase all over again, like you’re starting from scratch. And then like they’ve missed out on so much stuff and it’s like hard to catch them up with it. Like some of the stuff you just had to be there and they weren’t. And it’s not like you can be mad at them for it, like inside you’re going to be a little bit mad, but you know it’s not their fault.”
symptoms of depression
Symptoms of Depression
  • “The first day he after he [dad] left, it was like no one wanted to do anything. We just wanted to sit in the house and stare at the grades were slipping and they are now too. All D’s and I get in trouble a lot more.”
  • “…I feel like I can’t relax. I’m always stressed and worried about something—my brother and sister, my mom, my dad, my friends. When I finally get one thing right, something else always seems to go wrong. And I’m always trying to like help my mom and stuff and be helpful, but there’s only so much a 13-year-old can do…”
  • “I always feel like I have to hurt myself or something because then if I do, my dad will be able to come back.”
  • “When my dad was getting deployed, it’s just really hard because my sisters whine a lot and, I mean, they whine now. But it’s just horrible when he’s gone. And every night they always cry. I feel like crying along with them, but I just hold it in.”
changes in routines responsibilities
Changes in Routines & Responsibilities
  • “…when my dad’s not there, I’m not, you know, the child any more. I have to like kind of almost fill in for the other parent because the only thing my mom really cares about is that I’m ready to babysit.”
  • “I kind of have to be the strong one with my mom and then my younger sister.”
  • “I usually do a lot of school sports…but now with this [deployment] I don’t have transportation very often t go to those activities and I usually have to skip them…Since my dad’s deployed, track season started, and I really wanted to run track…”.
relationship conflict
Relationship Conflict
  • “I could tell that my mom was getting like really depressed and since she wouldn’t talk, I wouldn’t talk. And so around the house everyone was just kind of depressed for a little while and you can tell because they didn’t speak a lot.”
  • “…my mom acts different, too, when my dad’s gone. It’s like she’s not her normal self. She’s kind of like stressed out and stuff. And her stressed out affects on me too…”
  • “…it’s just a lot more stress on her. Like she holds stress pretty well, but she just like, if me and my sister are acting up, she gets mad a lot easier.”
  • ***”When mama ain’t happy” findings….***
  • Higher Adapters:
      • Understood that change and adaptation were necessary.
      • Place their situation in context.
      • Were less likely to internalize stress, handled stress more productively.
      • Were involved in less interpersonal conflict with family.
  • Lower Adapters:
      • Expressed more emotional responses to deployment.
      • Made greater expressions of violence and aggression.
      • Discussed greater levels of conflict with non-deployed parent, usually Mothers
      • Were less likely to feel their friends understand the situation.
high adapters
High Adapters
  • “Because I look at how other people are living, like some people, both of their parents died, and they’re homeless. And I look at my Dad, and at least I know he is still alive.”
  • “Well he is deployed but we try doing a lot of stuff to help out while he’s gone, and I go to my friend’s house a lot.”
  • “Because there are some, a whole bunch of bad things but there’s more good things than bad things happening to me.”
  • “And some of the good things help out, too, like I have really good neighbors that understand the situation going on. And I’m always welcome to my neighbors.”


low adapters
Low Adapters:
  • “Well, there’s all this stress, and then I’m going back to school and I really don’t like my school because most of my teachers are really stupid.”
  • “When my Dad is there we do lots more stuff than when he’s gone. It’s kind of hard to adjust to things without him when he’s gone.”
  • “And my Mom is like always stressed out which, you know, is because she has to deal with all of us and like me, she’s kind of mad at, she can’t have like time or calm down or anything.”
  • “It’s just school and all kinds of people just don’t really care, and they treat you different.”
research implications
Research Implications
  • More about impacts on youth & families
  • Effect of multiple deployments
  • Access/motivation for services
  • Increase understanding of parental relationship and its influence on family adjustment: ATTACHMENT FRAMEWORKS
  • Access issues in doing the work
practice implications
Practice: Implications
  • Focus on education and support for parents
    • Developmental appropriateness of discussions, reactions, expectations of youth
    • Modeling appropriate self-care, stress reduction, and emotional responses
    • Recognizing signs of depression
    • Providing/finding social support
practice implications1
Practice: Implications
  • Educate Youth Serving Professionals
    • Unique situation/stressors associated with parental deployment
    • Making special effort to connect with teens who have a deployed parent
    • Recognizing signs/symptoms of depression
    • Help teens develop social networks
    • Provide options for life skill development