The researchers studied 2,615 families, which included 1,426 service-member parents, 2,073 civilian parents, and 3,810 children. At least one parent in the family had been deployed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lester et al. employed FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress), an eight-session program that included an initial assessment, family psychoeducation and parenting guidance, a narrative component looking at key family transitions, and resilience skill building.
At follow-up, both parents and children showed reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD, wrote Lester. Parents reported better family functioning, and children had improved social behaviors.
Many parents joined the program hoping to help their children but eventually found that participation benefited the whole family, said Lester. “Taken as a whole, this evaluation study suggests that participation in the intervention provided durable improvements in parent and child psychological health outcomes.”
The FOCUS trial was conducted with families living on U.S. military bases, but it and other interventions should be tested in other settings, given that Reserve and National Guard personnel make up 43 percent of the Armed Forces, wrote Bonnie Ohye, Ph.D., and Eric Bui, M.D., Ph.D., in an accompanying editorial.
For more in Psychiatric News about military family issues, see “Troops Face Complex, but Not Inevitable, Mental Health Issues.” Also see Care of Military Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families, available from American Psychiatric Association Publishing.