Social Work’s military families study gets Defense grant

Family affair

Principal investigator Dr. James Ellor, professor of social work, is not the only Baylor researcher involved in the Military Family Coping Project.

• Co-investigator Janet R. Crow, Ph.D., assistant professor of family and consumer sciences
• Co-investigator Suzy H. Weems, Ph.D., chair and professor of family and consumer sciences
• Researcher Sara L. Dolan, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience
• Keith P. Sanford, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience
• Dennis R. Myers, Ph.D., The Dorothy Barfield Kronzer Endowed Professor in Family Studies in the School of Social Work.

By Daniel C. Houston
Staff Writer

Baylor researchers have received a $350,000 federal grant from the Department of Defense to study how soldiers and their families cope with the stress of military deployment.

The Military Family Coping Project, sponsored by the School of Social Work, will provide questionnaires to approximately 500 U.S. soldiers and 350 military family members. Project leaders, such as principal investigator Dr. James Ellor, professor of social work, hope the results from the questionnaire will give researchers insight into effective coping mechanisms.

“We hope that this will show us where the points of distress are for soldiers, parents and spouses, and how the stress of the parents and spouses impact the soldier and vice versa,” Ellor said.

The grant money is only designated toward the second phase of the project, which consists of the questionnaire aimed at families of soldiers preparing to deploy.

The first phase employed a series of focus groups to inform the researchers what questions would be most appropriate for the second-phase questionnaire.

The third phase of the project will be a qualitative analysis of families with soldiers who are currently deployed.

The grant itself will go toward compensation for collaborators, including Baylor faculty members, graduate students and retired Lt. Col. Sharon Reese. Reese worked on the first phase of Baylor’s research at Fort Hood before her retirement from the military in September.

Money from the grant will also fund materials for the questionnaire itself.

Reese said during the first phase of the project, researchers found there is not an adequate support system for parents or spouses who want information about their deployed loved ones.

Reese said during the second phase of the project, the Baylor faculty members on the team will use their expertise to analyze the data and suggest better methods of coping.

“The purpose of this study right now,” Reese said, “is to provide [the military] with the overall information, but at the same time there would be some recommendations because … we have different individuals that are qualified to provide some feedback based on the results that we get.”

Reese said she expects the military to be responsive to the project’s findings. “I will say that the military system through which we are working with our current grant is extremely interested in this research and looking forward to the outcome,” Reese said. “The Department of Defense is very interested in research along these lines.”

Ellor said he is grateful for the federal government’s investment in Baylor’s research, which he said enables Baylor to hire the personnel necessary for the project.

“I’m excited and honored that we could have this money from the government to be able to serve the soldiers who have worked so much and sacrificed for our country,” Ellor said.

The Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, an entity within the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, supports the project according to a Feb. 17 Baylor press release. A source from TATRC could not be reached by Monday’s deadline.