Staff Voices: Review of the Book "Serving Military Families in the 21st Century"

Staff Voices: Review of the Book "Serving Military Families in the 21st Century"

While working on a recent project about military families, I ran across the book Serving Military Families in the 21st Century. Published in April, 2012, this recent text is chock-full of information about working with military families, covering topics that range from military culture to the effects of war on Service Members and their families. The book is co-authored by five subject matter experts and purports to serve as an “introduction to military families and the effects of military service on adults, their relationships, and their children” (p.xi). With its emphasis on both recent research and first-hand experiences, I found it does exactly that. I think it would be a great resource for anyone interested in working with military families.

The book begins with an introduction to military culture and looks at the role of families within the military community. In particular, it highlights the idea that in addition to the normative stressors of family life (e.g., lifecycle transitions), military families also experience their own unique stressors, such as frequent moves and separations. This chapter sets the foundation for understanding this population. Chapter 2 continues to set the stage by providing an overview of the characteristics of military personnel and what motivates people to join the military.

Chapter 3 is entitled “Defining Features of Military Family Life” and it delves into a discussion of some of the unique challenges of military family life. Some of the topics covered include relocation, spouse education and employment, separation from family, deployment, and risk of injury or death. In a similar vein, Chapter 4 takes a closer look at the impact of military life on children and youth.

In Chapter 5, the authors review stress and resilience theories and discuss how they can be applied to working with military families. One theory that stood out for me is Froma Walsh’s family resilience framework. Dr. Walsh developed a conceptual framework of the key processes that can help families manage stress and cultivate resilience and positive growth, categorizing them into three domains of family functioning: belief systems, organizational patterns, and communication processes.

The focus in Chapter 6 is on the milestones (both job-related and typical young adult milestones) that Service Members and their families might experience during a military career. There is an additional discussion of the structures developed within the military community to provide support during these transitions.

Chapters 7 and 8 focus on the effects of war on both Service Members and their families. Some of the highlights include a discussion of the physical and psychological effects of war, the deployment-reintegration cycle and its impact on family well-being, and working with combat-injured families.

The next three chapters (Chapters 9-11) discuss various programs, policies, and organizations (both military and civilian) that serve military families. The book then concludes with a chapter (Chapter 12) on how to apply theory and research to practice in supporting military families and one (Chapter 13) that explores how practitioners can become involved in serving military families.

In summary, Serving Military Families in the 21st Century offers a wealth of information about working with military families. I recommend this book as a resource both for behavioral health providers working military families as well as for those interested in beginning to do so.

Dr. Marjorie Weinstock is a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy trainer at the Center for Deployment Psychology and a subject matter expert on deployment-related behavioral health issues and the impact of military life on families.

Blaisure, K.R., Saatoff-Wells, T., Pereira, A., Wadsworth, S.M., & Dombro, A.L. (2012). Serving military families in the 21st century. New York, NY: Routledge.