Academic journal article Family Relations

Adverse Childhood Experiences, Family Functioning, and Resilience in Military Families: A Pattern-Based Approach

Academic journal article Family Relations

Adverse Childhood Experiences, Family Functioning, and Resilience in Military Families: A Pattern-Based Approach

Article excerpt

Although presented with challenges and stressors related to being in the service, relations in military families largely function and operate similar to civilian families (Card et al., 2011). One variable that affects current family relations is past adverse childhood experiences, exerting long-term consequences on adult functioning within the family unit and individual quality of life, including physical health, mental health, and parenting. Resilience outcomes, the ability to withstand and rebound from adversity (Walsh, 2002), are attained when robust protective factors are available to alter or disrupt the connection between early life adversity and current functioning (Larkin, Beckos, & Shields, 2012). Based on developmental and family sciences conceptualizations, the process of resilience involves dynamic interactions encompassing positive adaptation generally within the context of significant adversity (Luthar, Cicchetti, & Becker, 2000; Walsh, 2002). Research on family resilience (i.e., the ability of family members to successfully adapt and adjust to hardships) - as opposed to models of family dysfunction and deficit - aims to provide researchers and practitioners practical knowledge that can be developed into successful interventions for individuals and families facing risk and vulnerability (Walsh, 2002, 2006).

The primary goal of this study was to examine family functioning processes as a resource that mitigates the relationship between adversity in the family of origin (i.e., past stressful intrafamilial contexts and interactions among members of one's family of origin) and current adult outcomes (physical health and health behaviors, mental health, and parenting) among active-duty military members and their partners. This goal was achieved through three aims. First, family functioning typologies were identified based on Qlson's (2011) circumplex model, in which family cohesion, flexibility, and communication are the core elements. Multiple dimensions of family functioning were utilized to test strengths and vulnerabilities manifested in the derived family typologies. Next, we examined the relationship between adverse childhood experiences and family functioning typologies. In other words, how do experiences from childhood influence current family functioning? Finally, we explored the relationship between different family functioning typologies and relevant adult outcomes in an effort to identify family-level processes that promote resilience. To best address these aims, this study utilized multiple informants (parents and children) to assess family functioning and resilience outcomes across several domains.

Background

This study utilizes general systems theory (von Bertalanffy, 1969; Walsh, 2002) as its theoretical framework and integrates models of resilience and family functioning, including one directly related to military families (Bowen, Martin, & Mancini, 2013; Patterson & Garwick, 1994). These models seek to delineate family functioning patterns that support resilience outcomes among families who are at risk due to past hardships (Huebner, Mancini, Bowen, & Orthner, 2009). Specifically, this theoretical framework seeks to identify family functioning typologies and competencies that support the health and adaptive development of its individual family members, despite histories of hardship among some of its individual members (McCubbin & McCubbin, 1988). According to this conceptualization, families have the capability to promote successful adaptation or "bonadaptation," seen as the process of restoring balance between demands (e.g., individual psychopathology) and capabilities (e.g., supportive family functioning; Patterson, 1988). Evaluating successful adaptations among adult family members exposed to varying degrees of childhood adversity enables practitioners and interventionists to better understand family functioning processes and intervene in a manner that promotes family and individual resilience (Patterson, 2002). …

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