Military families in which a parent has deployed to war are at high risk for relationship disruptions, parent, and child adjustment difficulties. After Deployment, Adaptive Parenting Tools/ADAPT is the first evidence-based parenting program for military families with school-aged children. ADAPT is a modification of the Parent Management Training-Oregon/PMTO model; PMTO behavioral skills are augmented with a strong focus on emotion socialization (i.e. parental emotion regulation skills taught via mindfulness practice, and emotion coaching skills). This presentation describes the rationale and content of the mindfulness components within the ADAPT intervention and outcome data examining the impact of the intervention on mothers’ and fathers’ mindfulness, emotion regulation, emotion-related parenting behaviors, and child adjustment.
The sample included 336 families (314 mothers, 294 fathers) each with a 4-13 year old target child, in which at least one parent had deployed to the wars in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. Families were predominantly middle to upper middle class (median income $70,000/year) two parent (85%), and Caucasian. In most families, father had deployed; 57 mothers had deployed (30 dual deployed families; 20 single mother deployed families; 7 deployed mothers were partnered with civilian fathers). Military service members were affiliated with the National Guard or Reserves. Families were randomized (60/40) to the ADAPT parenting intervention or a web and print resources control condition. We assessed participation in the intervention, including use of online mindfulness exercises and group attendance.
Assessments were conducted at baseline, 6 months (posttest), 12 months, and 24 months post baseline. Parents reported on their mindfulness, and emotion regulation/experiential avoidance; emotion-related parenting behaviors were assessed with observations of parent-child interaction tasks coded by coders blind to study condition. Teachers, parents, and children reported on child behaviors.
The ADAPT intervention had main effects on both mothers’ and fathers’ parenting efficacy at 6 months (posttest), but no main effects on parents’ trait mindfulness. Within the intervention group, however, mothers used online mindfulness exercises more than fathers, and those who accessed the online home mindfulness practices showed significant pre-post improvements in trait mindfulness (Zhang et al., 2018). The intervention improved mothers’ emotional parenting skills (i.e. emotion coaching); among fathers, those with high baseline experiential avoidance and difficulties in emotion regulation, experienced significant benefits to emotion related parenting behaviors (i.e. reductions in observed distress avoidance in interactions with children) compared with fathers in the control condition, at 12 and 24 months, controlling for baseline.
Analyses to date indicate that even relatively low-dose mindfulness can strengthen parents’ emotion regulation and emotion related parenting behaviors in a military parenting intervention. Implications for parenting programs targeted families in highly stressful and traumatic situations are discussed.