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Week 1: Evolving Nature of the Military Family

Family: A simple concept, one might think. However, family can take on many meanings and definitions. Think back to the first course in this specialization and how military families were defined. Throughout history, the military family was predominately the enlisted personnel, spouses, and their children. But the evolving nature of society has impacted the composition of the military family. Consider the ways in which the composition of a military family has changed. Now, take that evolving composition and think about how survival tools for military families may also need to evolve to be effective.

This week, you examine the evolving nature of the military family and how to support new families entering the military life.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Analyze ways to support the evolving military family
  • Evaluate services available to military personnel, veterans, and families

Learning Resources

Required Readings

Clever, M. & Segal, D.R. (2013). The Demographics of military children and families. The Future of Children, 23(2), pp. 13-39.

Dorman, R., & Mixon, K. (2014, February 17). Children of gay and lesbian parents [Blog post]. Retrieved from 

Meadows, S. O. (n.d.). Military families: What we know and what we don’t know. NCFR Report Magazine. Retrieved June 14, 2014, from 

Pryce, J. G., Pryce, D. H., & Shackleford, K. K. (2012a). Social work and military families [PDF]. In The costs of courage: Combat stress, warriors, and family survival (pp. 119–144). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.
The Costs of Courage: Combat Stress, Warriors, and Family Survival, 1st Edition by Pryce, J.; Pryce, D.; Shackelford, K. Copyright 2012 by Lyceum Books, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Lyceum Books, Inc. via the Copyright Clearance Center.

Document: Program Evaluation Template (Word document)

Required Media

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014b). The changing nature of the military family [Interactive graphic]. Baltimore, MD: Author. 

Discussion 1: Evolving Composition of a Military Family

Change is inevitable in so many ways for military families. For example, changes can occur in stations, schools, friends, jobs, rank, rates, and experiences. This concept has been covered extensively throughout this specialization. However, what have not been discussed at length are the changes in the composition of a military family. As society changes, so does the definition of family. One might consider the concept of family to be rather simple; yet in reality, it is more complex.

Think about who is eligible for military-related services and benefits, what the Department of Defense definition is of military families, and how military families have evolved.

Review the media, The Changing Nature of the Military Family. Consider the composition of a military family and who the Department of Defense recognizes as a member of a military family. How does the composition of a military family influence how you might support these families?

By Day 3

Post an explanation of how you might reconcile the Department of Defense (DOD) definition of family and the evolving composition of the military family. Explain considerations you might need to keep in mind as you interact with military families. Explain one way DOD, military, and helping professionals should support the evolving nature of the military family.

Read a selection of your colleagues’ posts.

By Day 5

Respond to two colleagues with an alternative perspective of considerations when working with military families or expanding upon your colleagues’ suggestions. Or, share an additional method of supporting military families.

Return to this Discussion to read the responses to your initial post. Note what you have learned and/or any insights you gained as a result of the comments your colleagues made.

To complete your Discussion, click on Discussions on the course navigation menu, and select “Week 1 Forum” to begin.

Response 1

 Teresa Sarn-Fitch RE: Discussion 1 – Week 1COLLAPSE

As we already know, there is no longer the “typical” military family in which to identify with.  Along with all of the societal changes that we have all witnessed and endured, the military has gone from the predictable nuclear family to the more blended or reconstituted, culturally diverse, and dual-career (Pryce & Pryce et al., 2012a) to name just a few.  At one time, military families were not even considered a part of the mission (Pryce & Pryce et al., 2012a).  Over time, the military has recognized that there needs to be a strong standardized structure in place in order to establish family readiness, in order to efficiently deploy a soldier (Pryce & Pryce et al., 2012a).  One of the ways that the Department of Defense (DOD) could evolve with this ever-evolving composition of the military family is through education.  In many settings throughout the United States, many military families live in a combined setting with civilians.  Much of the civilian population are not always aware of the severe amount of stress and strain placed upon a military family, especially during deployment phases.  I think that a certain level of awareness needs to be brought to the non-military environments, and to educate the public as to what a military family looks like and what their needs are on a daily basis.  I think through this level of awareness, can be brought more help from the outside and not always necessarily through the efforts of the DOD.  One of our readings suggest that there are stigmas related to mental health issues in the military (Pryce & Pryce et al., 2012a).  While that is most certainly true, I feel that there are also other stigmas that exist when trying to help these military families.  For instance, many military families may have to move great distances in order to relocate with the soldier.  This usually means adjusting to new cultural norms, children adjusting to new schools, and becoming familiar with the different services that they need.  During this time, it is quite possible that these families are stereotyped by the outside world and therefore stigmatized, due to the lack of information about what a real military family really looks like.         

            As a social worker, I would want to make sure that I identify all of the roles and the dynamics that exist with the particular family I am assisting.  Our readings also bring to light that many military personnel can’t meet the demands of both family and mission.  I would try and seek innovative ways in which the family and the soldier can enjoy quality family time together.   

            I think that the DOD should have continuing education for their personnel to include furthering the idealogy that the idea of “family” does not follow the rigid standard that it once stood for.  Different people have different support systems, and that theory also exists outside the military as well.  It is a changing world.


Pryce, J. G., Pryce, D. H., & Shackleford, K. K. (2012a).  Social work and military families         [PDF].  In The costs of courage:  Combat stress, warriors, and family survival (pp. 119-          144).  Chicago, IL:  Lyceum Books.


Response 2

 Kenechukwu Menakaya RE: Discussion 1 – Week 1 Main PostCOLLAPSE

The Department of Defense (DOD) definition of family and the evolving composition of the military family are the active-duty service members, members of the National Guard, Reserve, and veterans. This includes members of their immediate and extended families (adopted children) and the families of those who lost their lives in service to this country (Clever & Segal, 2013). The Departments definition recognizes that the federal government and the nation have a commitment to everybody that has served this nation, as well as to those who have supported that service. However, studies and data collected on military families and children tend to define military families as spouses and dependent children (age 22 and younger) of military personnel on active duty or in the National Guard and Reserve (Clever & Segal, 2013). However, the quashing of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the legal recognition of same-sex marriages, has added this group as part of legetimate military family (Clever & Segal, 2013).

The considerations that I need to review as I interact with military families are that military families tend to marry and have children earlier than civilians. This model is impacted by military policy and by the personal characteristic for people most likely to join the military, this is because of the high risk of the job. We need to consider the nature of being a military family as it requires frequent moving, prolong and repeated deployments, and its effect on spouse and children, particularly in children’s educational and social development (Clever & Segal, 2013). Meanwhile, we also need to understand specific trends that distinguish military families from their civilian counterparts, as military families are a diverse population whose needs differ over time and across equivalent populations. No particular story can confine who military families are or what they need to thrive in military and civilian communities. However, a similar context shows that military families and children need flexible policies that can adapt to their diverse and dynamic needs (Clever & Segal, 2013).

One way that the Department of Defense, military, and helping professionals can support the evolving nature of the military families and other service members, are by taking care of their psychological needs. These invisible wounds mostly do not emerge until months or years after they have returned from deployment and left military service. However, evidence indicates that symptoms of PTSD can be transferred to family members. Meanwhile, programs that seek to help with PTSD and other mental health problems should take a family-centered approach and should continue to reach out to veterans and their families after they have been discharged or even if they did not report mental health problems when they came home from war (Clever & Segal, 2013).


Clever, M. & Segal, D.R. (2013). The Demographics of military children and families. The Future of Children, 23(2), pp.13-39.

Submission and Grading Information
Grading Criteria

To access your rubric:
Week 1 Discussion 1 Rubric

Post by Day 3 and Respond by Day 5

To participate in this Discussion:
Week 1 Discussion 1 

Discussion 2: Military Survival List

Many military families who have no prior military experience often find themselves in need of services, support, and information to survive their induction into the military. For this Discussion, consider the following situation: You are a helping professional working at the Family Support Center on a military installation or post. You are asked to gather information to help new military families transitioning onto the installation who are new to military life.

Gathering data from your texts, military support sites, and any other reliable resource you identified, create a brief Military Survival List of information important for families who are beginning their military experience. Please include the top 10 pieces of information (may include services, directions, support, general information) that you think would help new military families.

By Day 4

Post your Military Survival List. Explain why you selected these items and why these would be important for new military families.

Read a selection of your colleagues’ posts.

By Day 6

Respond to two colleagues by expanding their survival list with an additional suggestion. Query your colleagues about the importance of the items on their list.

Return to this Discussion to read the responses to your initial post. Note what you have learned and/or any insights you gained as a result of the comments your colleagues made.

To complete your Discussion, click on Discussions on the course navigation menu, and select “Week 1 Forum” to begin.

Response 1

 Kenechukwu Menakaya RE: Discussion 2 – Week 1 Main PostCOLLAPSE

Due to the Persian Gulf War and the terrorist attacks of September 11, the military has experienced increased deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and separation from family (Pryce et al., 2012). These separations and constant relocations add a lot of burden to military families, especially to new military families. In view of this, the Department of Defense has established different support services to help families adjust to these hardships within the military communities. Some of the military services, support, and information that help families to survive their induction into military life are:

1 Military health and wellness

2 Military financial and legal assistance

3 Job and education help for military spouses and children

4 Moving support for military families

5 Life insurance

6 Housing: home loans and grants

7 Parenting and the army childcare assistance

8 The wounded warrior’s aid for military personnel and families

9 VA caregiver support

10 Deployment help for military families

 I selected these items because they help military spouses and children in dealing with life-changing events, understanding military culture, deployments, stresses and strengths of families that follows military experiences (Pryce et al., 2012). To new military families, it helps with providing information and guidance for social service, financial assistance, lessens relocation burden, health and well-being, and all the required information needed while their breadwinners are away, injured, or deceased (Pryce et al., 2012).


Pryce, J.G., Pryce, D.H., & Shackleford, K.K. (2012a). Social work and military families [PDF]. In the costs of courage: 

Combat stress, warriors, and family survival (pp. 119-144). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.

Response 2

 Johnny Aragon RE: Discussion 2 – Week 1COLLAPSE

Pryce, Pryce and Shackleford (2012) very well state, “military service has become a family affair.”  It is the military family as a unit that will determine the combat readiness of the forces—forces that need to be ready to deploy at a moments’ notice.  For a newly formed family (through marriage or enlistment or commission) or for the experienced pros, there are some important things that the family needs to be aware of for survival:

  1. Military Family: what did you expect?
    1. The military family has changed in many ways since over the last 244 years.  These changes tremendously impact the expectations, duties and value placed on the military family members.
    2. The question to asked for all newly formed military families is, “what is your impression of the military family?  Is it based on a 1960’s-1970’s movie that you watched, or is it based on a friend who was or is involved with the military?  Your perspectives before entering the military family fraternity will greatly impact your adjustment process.
  2. The Challenges of Family vs. Mission Comes First?
    1. Are these at odds with one another or are they essential to the strength of what it means to be a military family?
    2. Keep in mind that the military works in timeframes not in dates, so, as is often said, life is unpredictable for military families.
    3. The author of the Military Benefits article said, “the most damaging thing that can harm a unit and its families is misinformation.  In the absence of real information, never succumb to rumors and never make assumptions.”  Always seek out the answers.
  3. What is unique to your branch?
    1. Each service has its own unique customs, culture, helps and expectations.  There are orientations for learning what they are.  This will help you to become better accustomed to your environment and get plugged-in to the personnel and resources needed to thrive and enjoy being a military spouse, child or dependent.
  4. Accept the reality
    1. Your spouse may lose their life while deployed to a war zone or while performing his or her routine job.  Death is just an accepted part of the military, so
    2. MEMORIZE your spouse’s social security number and GET a power of attorney.  Ensure that if they pass away or if something should happen while they are deployed you are able to handle the economic and other business without them.
  5. Programs for you to know
    1. Knowing the programs that you can turn to for assistance or for respite will go a long way in relieving stress when it comes.
    2. Army Community Services
    3. Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR): there are many recreational or sport activities available for all ages; you can rent boats or other equipment for the outdoors; buy tickets to events at a discounted price; Space-A travel.
    4. Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS)
    5. How do the schools work for your child and for the continuing education of the spouse
    6. Understanding Tricare
  6. Deployment and Redeployment
    1. Each unit is going to handle this in its own unique way.  Learn what that is.  Connecting yourself to the other military families can be a great benefit and support. 
      1. However, keep in mind that not all spouses are looking for the same type of support.  There are those who are actively seeking to enjoy having multiple affairs and squandering the hazard duty pay that the deployed service member is earning.  Beware!
    2. What does it look like for the deployed member to transition back home once the family has established a new set of routines and normalcy?
    3. What do I need to know to prepare for my spouses deployment?


MilitaryBenefits. (2020). Advice for New Military Spouses.

            Pryce, J.G., Pryce, D.H., & Shackleford, K.K. (2012a). Social work and military families [PDF]. In the costs of courage: Combat stress, warriors, and family survival (pp. 119-144). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.

Submission and Grading Information
Grading Criteria

To access your rubric:
Week 1 Discussion 2 Rubric

Post by Day 4 and Respond by Day 6

To participate in this Discussion:
Week 1 Discussion 2

Project: Final Project

You may choose one of the two following options for your Final Project, which is due Day 7 of Week 10.

  1. Program Evaluation: Select a program or service and evaluate its use and appropriateness for military families.
    • Using the template provided, identify the program and describe the details (e.g., what is the purpose of the program, what are the essential elements, who does it benefit?).
    • Provide an executive summary of the program. In a descriptive narrative, provide any recommendations you might have for the program, what you learned about the program, and how it may or may not meet the needs of military families.
    • How will this information help you in your future role?
  2. Volunteer or Social Service Learning Opportunity: For example, you can volunteer at an event with the Wounded Warrior Project or other military support program.
    • Locate a military program in which you can volunteer in a social service learning opportunity. You might lead an effort to send care packages to military personnel or military families. Think about a creative way that you could engage in a program to support military personnel and their families.
    • Describe the activity, what led you to choose that activity, and how you engaged in it.
    • Describe your experiences, benefits, limitations, and what you learned or gained from the activity.
    • Explain how the information you gained can help you in your role as a helping professional.

Summary: Explain how your chosen project may help you understand the stressors, family dynamics, challenges, and advantages of military families.

The Final Project will be a 10- to 12-page paper and must include the following:

  • Identification of your chosen assignment (Option 1 or 2)
  • A minimum of 5 scholarly articles
  • Adherence to APA style and format

Again, your Final Project will be due in Week 10.


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