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Child and Family Programs

Current and past research studies under the Child and Family program include:

National Military Family Bereavement Study


This study aims to identify experiences of bereaved military family members (adults and children) — how psychological and/or physical outcomes of bereavement are influenced by family members’ pre-existing psychological and physical health, genetic factors, support and unique factors associated with military death. Expert consultants from Columbia University, UCLA, and University of Michigan are also collaborating on study analyses.

Impact of Combat Injury on Military Service Families and Children

In order to determine how combat injury affects family members and their children, three studies were conducted. Families participated in (1) a study conducted at the National Military Family Association Operation Purple Healing Adventures Camps, (2) a longitudinal study comparing combat injured and non-injured families from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, San Antonio Military Medical Center and Fort Stewart, GA, and (3) FOCUS-CI, a pilot randomized-controlled trial that tested the effectiveness of a newly-developed family-centered, strength-based intervention to be used with severely combat-injured service members and their families. Data collected from these three sources will inform programmatic intervention that can better address the needs of service members and their families.

Deployment Family Stress: Child Neglect and Maltreatment in U.S. Army Families

The goal of this Child Neglect study is to describe the characteristics of substantiated child neglect cases in the Army, and to identify factors within the family, the military community and the civilian community that contribute either to family health or child maltreatment.. Data were collected from 1,088 questionnaires representing 26 Army installations in the United States, and 400 records of substantiated child neglect cases around the country.  Analyses of these data defined the varying types, subtypes and severity of neglect occurring within families, highlighting the importance of varied public health strategies to minimize risk. 

Understanding and Meeting the Needs of Children Following Family Member Death

This study, funded by Sesame Workshop, was the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress Child and Family Program’s preliminary research initiative into the area of family bereavement. It studied the impact of a multimedia program produced by Sesame Workshop in families with young children affected by family member death. The study also addressed the impact of parental death on children and their caretakers in both military and civilian populations by evaluating the helpfulness of a Sesame Workshop DVD and supplemental materials designed for grieving families. The study collected data on the health and well-being of surviving children (ages 2–18. These children lost a parent after September 11, 2001 and the data were observations from their current caretaker.


Grief is a normal process that usually improves over time. The National Military Family Bereavement Study (NMFBS) conducted by the Uniformed Services University has determined that a sizeable portion of bereaved military family members suffer prolonged levels of grief and distress. This prolonged distress puts them at risk for harmful long-term changes in physical and mental health. Recognizing the need to help bereaved military families and friends, the NMFBS formed a partnership with the Center for Complicated Grief at Columbia University to create a program for bereaved military families and friends to better manage grief, guilt, and anger. The program, entitled GRIEF STEPS, is an app-based/Internet program designed to lower grief and decrease risk for long-term problems. GRIEF STEPS will be tested in a “randomized controlled trial,” which means that we will ask bereaved military family members and close friends to participate and then assign them to one of two groups, either the GRIEF STEPS group or a “control” group that will focus on building resilience. The study will compare how the people in each group do in overall improvement in grief severity and adaptation to loss. Both groups will have guides who can help or answer questions about the intervention. If GRIEF STEPS is successful, it would be a helpful resource for current and future survivors who suffer the death of a military loved one.

VOICES of 9-11

The Center for Study of Traumatic Stress and VOICES of September 11 partnered to examine long-term positive and negative bereavement outcomes (including grief, traumatic symptoms, resilience characteristics and post-traumatic growth) following a terrorism-related death. Participants were family members bereaved by the bombing of Air India Flight 182 on June 23, 1985 or by the events of September 11, 2001. Participants completed an online questionnaire about their experiences related to the aftermath of these events and the death of their family member(s).  The questionnaire assessed the following: background factors; characteristics of the death; availability of post-death resources; media involvement; memorialization; psychological functioning; and life changes. This information will be used to develop preliminary working models for understanding risk and protective factors for bereaved family members of terrorism-related deaths. These results will inform ongoing research and guide training and counsel for disaster and terrorism victims and their families.

Courage to Care for Me

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