Family Analysis of Parenting Stress, Mental Health & Spirituality in a Navy Cohort


Name: Abigail Yablonsky

Rank: CDR

Organization: The Geneva Foundation

Performance Site: Naval Health Research Center - San Diego

Year Published: 2018

Abstract Status:


Previous research suggests that deployments may negatively affect families by increasing the level of stress service members and their civilian spouses experience with regard to parenting.1,2 Specifically, sailors who experienced harsher deployments (i.e., deployments with higher perceived threat and warfare exposure), longer deployments, and more frequent deployments were more likely to experience parenting stress.3 However, parenting stress is a complex phenomenon and it remains to be seen precisely how deployments may influence these stressors for active duty service members and their civilian spouses.Performing a secondary analysis on data previously collected from 82 military family dyads, this study will provide a nuanced understanding of how deployments can affect mothers' and fathers' parenting stress in different ways using the thirteen subscales within the Parenting Stress Index (PSI). This detailed analysis will focus on identifying how deployment factors predict parenting stress by influencing different facets of parenting stress (i.e. different PSI subscales) for the service member and civilian spouse, respectively. Additionally, the family dyad will be examined in a relationship context - how each member of the dyad’s individual parenting stress affects the other member and vice versa. A final question involves examining how these facets of parenting stress may predict mental health outcomes (i.e., depression and PTSD) while accounting for previously identified protective factors (i.e., social support and spirituality).The long-term goal of this program of research is to be able to develop innovative and targeted behavioral interventions to promote healthy parenting in military families dealing with the unique stressors of deployment. Nurses at all levels interact with military personnel and their families on a daily basis. Because of the interrelated and dynamic nature of family experiences, it is imperative to assist family members as well as the active duty service member in times of stress. Identifying patterns of parenting stress for Navy family dyads, as well as patterns within specific subscales of the Parenting Stress Index, will reveal potential areas for intervention in families experiencing the process of deployment. Supportive interventions may need to take different forms for the service member and for the spouse. For example, if fathers’ high stress emanates from a perceived lack of parental competence, but mothers’ high stress is reflected in perceptions of her child as highly distractible and hyperactive, targeted interventions for families will differ based on these findings. If nurse clinicians understand the influence of deployment experiences on stressors within the family dynamic, this gives our holistic healers an opportunity to intervene early to prevent both psychological and physical harm to the military family.