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The impact of changes in family communication on sustained mental health symptom improvement in parents/caregivers following a military family intervention

APA Citation:

Wasserman, M., Dodge, J., Barrera, W., Alaris, H., Woodward, K., & Lester, P. (2023). The impact of changes in family communication on sustained mental health symptom improvement in parents/caregivers following a military family intervention. Military Behavioral Health. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/21635781.2023.2221473

Abstract Created by REACH:

This study assessed how improvements in family communication after participating in the Families OverComing Under Stress (FOCUS) program were related to sustained reductions in anxiety and depressive symptoms among 1,372 parents from Navy and Marine Corps families. All parents in this study reported clinically meaningful levels of anxiety or depression at baseline and then reported on their anxiety and depressive symptoms at program exit and 1-, 6-, and 12-month follow ups. Family communication (e.g., other family members know why someone is upset) was reported at baseline and exit. After each session and at follow-up, parents also rated their progress towards self-identified family communication goals. Overall, improvements in family communication over the course of the program were related to a greater likelihood of sustained reductions in anxiety or depressive symptoms at follow-up.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Military families
Active duty service member
Spouse of service member or veteran
Child of a service member or veteran


Preschool age (2 -5 yrs)
Adolescence (13 - 17 yrs)
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Quantitative Study
Longitudinal Study


Wasserman, Melissa, Dodge, Jessica, Barrera, Wendy, Alaris, Hilary, Woodward, Kristen, Lester, Patricia


A key mechanism of resilience, family communication, is examined in relationship to sustained improvement in parent/caregiver mental health. Service delivery data was utilized from parents/caregivers who participated in Families OverComing Under Stress. Data were analyzed for parents/caregivers indicating clinically meaningful symptoms of depression or anxiety at baseline and who completed measures of family communication each session and follow-up. Results found that family communication improvement from Baseline-Exit was significantly associated with sustained improvement in anxiety (p = .0223) and depression (p = .0349). Improvements in family communication may be critical in sustaining mental health symptom improvement among parents/caregivers.

Publication Type:

REACH Publication
Featured Research


veterans, deployment, resilience, family systems, parenthood, military spouses, family communication, family-centered care, family intervention, military families and children, military parent

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


Fusenot Foundation to UCLA Semel Institute

REACH Newsletter:

  October 2023

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