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Coping skills of military families focus of research

Oct. 6, 2010

Two faculty members in Baylor's School of Social Work came to their latest area of research partially because of how they witnessed graduate students in the program who are military spouses cope with their challenges.

Dr. James W. Ellor, professor of social work, and Dr. Dennis R. Myers, BA '68, newly named Dorothy Barfield Kronzer Professor in Family Studies, are conducting focus groups in Central Texas as an initial step in a research project that will try to determine effective ways to help military families cope with deployment -- before, during and after.

Ellor said the focus groups are an integral component of the research and will help the team fine-tune its survey materials.

"What we are looking at in this stage are questions about coping skills, both for the parents and spouses at home and the deployed soldier," he said. "Later, we hope to see how coping and resilience skills impact positively or negatively on individuals in the family and the family unit."

Social work is an appropriate field to lead in research that can help strengthen military families, Myers said. Strengthening families and communities is one of the primary missions of the Baylor School of Social Work.

"The information these spouses and parents of soldiers provide is extremely helpful to us," said Myers, who hosted the first focus groups at his home church, First Baptist Woodway. "We are particularly interested in how faith and church involvement influence this experience."

Ellor and Myers are working collaboratively with the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, Fort Hood, Texas, the same center where many of the wounded were taken following last year's shootings at the military base. All of the members of the research team are mental or physical health care professionals.

In addition to Ellor and Myers, they include: Lt. Col. Sharon Reese, research coordinator and chief nurse scientist, Darnall Army Medical Center; and (all from Baylor) Dr. Sara L. Dolan, assistant professor, department of psychology and neuroscience; Dr. Janet R. Crow, assistant professor, department of family and consumer sciences; and Dr. Suzy H. Weems, BS '65, project consultant and chair of the department of family and consumer sciences.

The team is in the process of procuring additional funding to further its research.

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