Families & children beat: U studies National Guard parents

  • Article by: JEREMY OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 8, 2012 - 8:59 PM

Minnesota researchers have closely studied the struggles of National Guard members as they return to their families from deployments. Now they are studying the best way to help them return to full-time roles as parents.

The University of Minnesota announced Wednesday it is seeking 300 more Guard and Reserve families for its study of the ADAPT parenting program and whether it helps ease problems post-deployment. The researchers have already worked with 100 families -- some of whom received ADAPT services and group sessions, some of whom received basic counseling and written materials. (ADAPT stands for After Deployment: Adaptive Parenting Tools. The program is based on a counseling approach originally created for divorcees and their kids.)

Emotions are intensified during deployment, said Abi Gewirtz, the lead researcher of the U study. It can be difficult for Guard members, she said, to regain control of their emotions when faced with the more mundane but often stressful responsibilities of parenting.

"Emotions associated with being in a combat zone -- where you have to really be on alert all the time -- have to be recalibrated when you come back home," she said.

It's too early to say whether the ADAPT approach is superior in helping Guard members, but Gewirtz said the feedback from Guard members and their spouses and kids has been overwhelmingly positive. A key to the study will be following those families for the next two years to see whether they face fewer struggles than families who received traditional support.

Gewirtz said the study needs 400 families in all -- with children ages 4 to 12. That will allow researchers to observe whether the effectiveness of the approach varies by the age of the children, the length of deployment and other factors.

Participating in the study is Melissa Polusny of the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center, who has already examined the mental health of Minnesota Guard members.

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744

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