The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

February 8, 2013

Researchers looking for rural military families

MANKATO — For the past few years, the University of Minnesota has been engaged in a research project aimed at teaching and studying parenting skills of military families post-deployment.

More than 250 families already have been enrolled the past three years, and data collection is under way.

Now the U of M is turning its focus outstate for the last leg of the study, hoping about 20-25 Mankato-area military families will take part.

“The idea from the public is once everybody’s home, it’s all better, and that’s the furthest thing from reality,” said Thad Shunkwiler of Mankato, outreach coordinator for the project and a faculty researcher in the U of M department of family social science. “What we know is that after deployment is when real stress (sets in).”

The $3.2 million project was funded through the National Institute of Drug Abuse and National Institutes of Health and was based on the long-term parenting study by Marion Forgatch and Gerald Patterson, which examined the impact of parenting on development.

With war being a part of the lives of many families nationwide the past decade, researchers determined a study should be done on needs of military families for effective parenting techniques after deployments, Shunkwiler said.

Studies show more than 10 percent of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will have post-traumatic stress disorder. And 20 percent return to no job, which adds stress to parenting, Shunkwiler said.

Forgatch and Patterson created a parenting management training model, an intervention system to help families develop parenting skills. The U of M team, led by Abigail Gewirtz in the family social science department, modified the program to fit the military experience, said Shunkwiler, a medical officer in the Minnesota Guard. The program is called After Deployment: Adaptive Parenting Tools, or ADAPT.

Focusing on Minnesota National Guard and Reserve families, Shunkwiler said the purpose of the research project is to test the effectiveness of ADAPT. Although too early in the process to say definitively, the goal could be to make the program available to the military as a tool to help deployed troops transition back into family life, as well as help their families normalize again.

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