Children of Military Families: In-Depth Interviews Exploring Sources of Resiliency

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Mullett, Laura Elizabeth
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Since the end of the draft and creation of the All-Volunteer Force over forty years ago, military service has fallen to an increasingly small percentage of citizens. These citizens, their spouses and their children make immeasurable sacrifices for the safety of this nation, and it is essential we invest in their well-being. The Obama Administration is aware of the stress put on military families and has rallied for an unprecedented level of support for military families by the people of this country. First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched the “Joining Forces” initiative in 2011, that calls upon all Americans to “rally around service members, veterans, and their families, and to support them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities” (Obama & Biden, 2012). These efforts come on top of countless nonprofit groups and, of course, the internal efforts of the military to develop solutions and support for service members and their families. Utilizing the theoretical framework of “Resiliency” this research contributes to the ongoing discussion of how best to support the children of military families through the unique challenges faced in the military lifestyle, both in wartime and peacetime. By exploring the interactions of stress and resiliency in the military childhood through in-depth interviews, this research adds a refreshing, up-to-date, and distinctive voice to the discussion of military childhood during wartime. While “many programs to help military children were rolled out quickly at a time of pressing need” (Easterbrooks, Ginsburg & Lerner, 2013, p.111), their effectiveness is unclear and the standards by which they have been evaluated have been inconsistent. After conducting in-depth interviews with a small sample of young adults who grew up with parents in the military during the post-9/11 era, this research did not find support for the reach or effectiveness of these programs, though these programs need to be evaluated further and the attempts to help military children should certainly not be discouraged; however, during a time of military budget cuts, it is more important than ever to insure money is going to the most vital and effective areas for promoting military resilience. With that in mind, this research recommends a refocusing on the strength drawn from the military community and military culture traditionally found on military installations in the United States and across the globe. This network of social support and shared understandings is perhaps the greatest asset that military children and their families have for maintaining and enhancing their resilience in the face of a challenging lifestyle, and we cannot afford to continue to leave it out of discussions regarding military childhood and resilience. Unfortunately community life on base faces considerable challenges in the face of continued budget pressures on the military. The Air Force Times reported that, “before bases are closed or downgraded, amenities are likely to be cut to save money” – often closures of “bowling alleys, youth centers and hobby shops, to name a few” have become necessary to “trim costs without further downsizing manpower” (Ricks, 2012). While these measures are often reluctantly accepted as a practical way to save money, the decision to defund activities and community spots on base goes directly against the primary findings of this study’s research on how to encourage resiliency in the military lifestyle.
Resilience, Military, Childhood, In-Depth Interview