By Keith Aronson and Andrea Messer, Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK – The health and well-being of military children, youth and families will be enhanced by three contracts from the military totaling $2.2 million awarded to Penn State researchers. The awards include two one-year contracts from the Department of Defense-U.S. Department of Agriculture Partnership, each totaling $1 million, and one contract from the Department of the Navy for $200,000.
Most of these funds will go toward establishing the Penn State Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness (CMFR), while the Navy contract will support an evaluation of its Youth Sports and Fitness Program. The CMFR’s aim is to promote and support science-based information, evidence-based programs and practices, and to provide professional technical assistance so that professionals can work more effectively with military families.
On Monday (Jan. 24), U.S. President Barack Obama announced a government-wide initiative and released “Strengthening the Military Family: An Interagency Review,” which identified four priorities, all of which include building long-term relationships with land-grant universities across the country to promote collaboration between research faculty and cooperative extension professionals. The partnership aims to translate research to practice and promote resilient military families.
“Penn State was selected as a lead land-grant university partner because of its excellent Cooperative Extension system, leadership in effective research-extension collaborations, and elite status for conducting applied research in human development and family studies and prevention science,” said Susan McHale, director of Penn State Social Science Research Institute.
Although military families are typically resilient when facing challenges, they may find the demands associated with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, including multiple family separations and reintegrations, stressful. The CMFR will synthesize existing and emerging research and identify effective programs to bolster family functioning, including communication, problem solving, emotional expression, cohesion, parenting, marital quality and coping.
The CMFR will provide access to evidence-based programs designed to enhance family functioning across a broad range of outcomes through a searchable database. The clearinghouse is developing this database and a variety of other resources including webinars, videos and podcasts, to promote the understanding, adoption and ultimately widespread use of evidenced-based practices to enhance military family readiness.
“The CMFR will also provide much needed technical assistance to those in the field who want to use evidence-based programs but do not have all the requisite knowledge and expertise to do so,” said Daniel Perkins, professor of family and youth resiliency and policy and CMFR principal investigator.
“Penn State is honored and gratified to continue our long history of mutually beneficial, long-term, strategic partnerships with the DOD,” said Peter Schiffer, associate vice president for research. “The DOD’s initiative to partner with land-grant universities to promote community adoption of evidence-based interventions is an important step forward and will undoubtedly benefit many military families.”
Recognition of the challenges faced by military families was the impetus for the creation of Penn State’s Military Personnel and Families Research Initiative in December 2008. As part of this initiative, the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Social Science Research Institute, the Office of Military and Security Programs and the Prevention Research Center worked together to initiate and support interdisciplinary research on military personnel, families and children.