Abstract: Parents Emotional Support and Child Adjustment in Military Families: Data from a Randomized Controlled Trial of a Parenting Intervention (Society for Prevention Research 27th Annual Meeting)

186 Parents Emotional Support and Child Adjustment in Military Families: Data from a Randomized Controlled Trial of a Parenting Intervention

Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Garden Room A (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Sun-Kyung Lee, MA, Graduate Student, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, St.Paul, MN
Na Zhang, PhD, Post-doctoral fellow, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Jingchen Zhang, MA, Graduate student, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, SAINT PAUL, MN
Timothy Piehler, PHD, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, St. Paul, MN
Abigail H. Gewirtz, PhD, LP, Lindahl Leadership Professor, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Saint Paul, MN
Introduction: Parents’ military deployments and exposure to traumatic events are related to children’s elevated emotional problems (Lester et al., 2010). Eisenberg et al (1998)’s model of parental emotion socialization (ES) suggests that emotion-related parenting (e.g., reactions to child’s negative emotions) influence child emotion regulation, which relate to child mental health (Morris et al., 2017). Less research has focused on military families and with both parents simultaneously. Therefore, the current study tested intervention effects of a parenting program on parental ES growth and child outcomes over two years.

Methods: Secondary data from a randomized control trial of After Deployment Adaptive Parenting Tools (ADAPT), an adaptation of the Parent Management Training-Oregon Model that specifically targets parental ES, were used (Gewirtz et al., 2014). The total sample included 255 two-parent families (generally White and middle class) with at least one deployed parent and one target child (age 4-12). Supportive ES (SUP), such as encouraging children to talk about their fears, was self-reported using the Coping with Children’s Negative Emotions Scale at baseline and 1 and 2 years later. Child adjustment was assessed using parent-report on the Behavioral Assessment Scale for Children (BASC-2) at 2 year follow up. Dyadic latent growth models (LGM) were used to examine intervention effects on growth of parents’ SUP simultaneously and the impact of these changes on child adjustment at 2 years, controlling for child age, child gender, baseline child resilience, and parent deployment.

Results: Model fit indices were acceptable. Findings showed no consistent pattern of growth in parents’ SUP over the course of the study. Only the correlation between parents’ rates of growth was significant. There were no significant intervention effects on the growth of both parents’ SUP despite prior findings indicating main effects of the intervention on mothers’ ES (Zhang et al, 2018). However, mothers with younger children reported lower initial SUP, and mothers with boys increased in SUP over time. Fathers increased in SUP when parents reported poorer child adjustment at baseline.

Conclusions: Interestingly, regardless of the intervention mothers were less supportive of younger children’s emotions and increased emotional support to boys over time. Also, fathers showed more emotional support if their children showed poorer baseline adjustment. These findings suggest that more research is needed to understand the longitudinal mutual relationship between parental ES and child outcomes in military families, and that future parenting interventions may need to tailor programs depending on parents’ perceptions of child adjustment, and child’s age and gender.