New center focuses on enhancing the health and well-being of military families

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Military families face unique challenges and stressors including prolonged separations, frequent relocations and living with knowing that loved ones are in harm’s way.

Penn State has created a new research center, the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness, that focuses on catalyzing new research designed to translate science from multiple disciplines into the development, implementation, dissemination and evaluation of evidence-based programs and practices designed to ameliorate these challenges.

Through this applied interdisciplinary research, the Clearinghouse addresses military family issues from all angles, as well as builds public awareness, evaluates programs, and recruits and develops a new generation of applied researchers in the area.

“Penn State’s world-class research in the areas of human development, family studies, prevention, child psychology, and implementation and evaluation science provides an ideal platform for supporting the unique needs of military families,” said University President Rodney Erickson. “The Clearinghouse is a natural extension of our strong connection to the U.S. military services, in combination with Penn State’s leadership in translational and implementation research. Penn State has the outreach and extension services to reach those who need help most.”

Beginning as a project funded by the Department of Defense three years ago, the Clearinghouse has grown exponentially by forging trusting, collaborative partnerships with numerous military stakeholders. It has expanded the number of its applied research projects through funds from several of the military services.

On Friday, Nov. 1, more than 100 people gathered in the Nittany Lion Inn Board Room to recognize the success of the Clearinghouse and to launch it as a University-wide center. The audience included military personnel and families, ROTC students and other dignitaries.

Clearinghouse Director Daniel Perkins discussed the need for high-quality, cutting-edge, applied research specifically designed to help military families build resiliency.

“Very few evidence-based programs have been developed for military families, but there are a sizeable number that have worked for civilian families," Perkins said. "We are helping professionals who work with military families bring these approaches to the military context."

The official designation of the Clearinghouse as a Penn State research center was essential to increase its visibility, scope and impact, said Keith Aronson, associate director of the Clearinghouse.

“As a center, we can become more fully immersed in the fabric of the University’s teaching, research and outreach mission,” said Aronson. “Penn State has barely scratched the surface of what we can do for military families. The key going forward is to engage with more faculty and students who bring expertise and passion.”

Glenn Thompson, Congressmen of Pennsylvania’s 5th District, was in attendance and shared his story on the importance of military readiness. Thompson has a son and daughter-in-law in the military.

“This is very near and dear to my heart,” he said. “Having faculty with this expertise is an amazing resource. I try to meet with faculty on a regular basis, and I work with them to find ways to bring this research to military readiness groups. The progress has been impressive.”

Of the country’s 2.7 million service members, more than half are married. Thirty-seven percent are married with children and 7 percent are single parents. There are approximately 2 million military children. Changing locations frequently, being away from a parent for long periods of time and financial stresses can create issues for both children and spouses.

During the kick-off, Perkins, who is a professor of family and youth resiliency and policy within the College of Agricultural Sciences, showed a video that showcased the scope of the Clearinghouse and interviewed some of the people who benefit most from the program. It demonstrated the strong relationship Penn State has built with the Department of Defense and the other military branches in just three years.

“It’s easy to get the Clearinghouse mission,” said Perkins. “It is our privilege and honor to work on ways to strengthen our military families, who are our heroes and heroines.”

The Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness is a unit of Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute.

Contacts: 

Jonathan F. McVerry

Work Phone: 
814-865-7011

Communications Manager
Network on Child Protection and Well-Being
Social Science Research Institute

Last Updated April 04, 2014