Coping with Loss: Families in Crisis Jay A. Mancini The University of Georgia Our Nation’s Hidden Victims: National Conference on Responding to Missing and Unidentified Persons Atlanta, Georgia, September 2014
With appreciation • Catherine W. O’Neal, The University of Georgia • Alycia DeGraff, The University of Georgia • William H. Milroy, OBE, Veterans Aid (London) • Angela J. Huebner, Virginia Tech • Pauline Boss, University of Minnesota • Gary L. Bowen, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill • The Men at New Belvedere House, Stepney, East London • Military members, their spouses, and their youth (CONUS and OCONUS) • National Criminal Justice Training Center, Fox Valley Technical College • U.S. Department of Agriculture Grant No. 2009-48680-06069
Stories from everyday lifeand by the numbers • Powerful stories open our awareness of family situations, challenges, and responses • Some of these stories show marked family resilience while others show dramatic vulnerabilities • Solutions that families arrive at vary greatly and are influenced by numerous elements; some solutions make sense to the rest of us whereas other solutions seem outrageous • I begin with a few stories extracted from the popular press as a way of introducing how we might think about families in crisis • As I conclude, we will return to everyday life stories as they involve ambiguous loss and they will be joined by action steps for us to consider • Our goals are to broaden our awareness of what families face, consider what we might do to mitigate family vulnerability, and support family resilience • Systematic research also opens our awareness of family situations, challenges, and responses • Research I will site from UGA’s Family and Community Resilience Laboratory draws on two very different sources of information: • Homeless men in East London, UK • Youth and their parents in U.S. military families • They each face vulnerabilities and each bring resilience to the equation of their lives • At first glance it may seem that homeless men and military families face overwhelming challenges, but at second glance we see the process of navigating these challenges for increasing the odds of success • These stories “by the numbers” are instructive for understanding the complexities in people’s lives and point to leverage points for supporting individuals and families
Three stories: The outcomes are clearer than the pathways traveled • The killing of 6 children in Minneapolis, MN • Murder-suicide in Las Vegas, NV • Infant abandonment in Richmond, VA
Framing the stories of Coping, Loss, & Resilience: Contextual model of Family Stress
A-B-C-X Framework on Stress: Leverage points • ABC-X theory • A-circumstance or situation • B-existing resources • C-perception of the situation • X-result • B and C are clear leverage points, and A is a potential leverage point
Resilience & Vulnerability • Resilience • Process of successfully overcoming adversity • Family resilience is the process by which families are able to adapt and function competently following exposure to significant adversity or crises • Vulnerability • Experiences, situations, or characteristics that expose a person to additional negative experiences and results • Risk • Increase odds of poor results • Internal and external elements • Chronic and acute
Vulnerability and resilience among homeless men:Getting sorted out in East LondonWilliam H. Milroy & Jay A. ManciniBuckingham Palace Road, London
Mental health Alcohol misuse Poverty = FRAGILE
Voices of Homeless Men:Family alcohol abuse “My mom and dad were big drinkers. That sort of put blocks on everything because if I wanted to do something, they'd always be too drunk to sort it out. If I wanted clothes or holiday, I don't remember any holidays with them, you know what I mean? They was always down at the pub, they was always in the pub.”
A Life of Uncertainty “I just remember seeing my dad walking down the road with a suitcase in his hand and then me too, calling him back, but he just walked away…after my father left my brother became like a father figure to me…then a year after he started abusing me…I didn't really understand…I didn't realize it was wrong or anything.”
Understanding a Context of Turning Things Around • Life in East London Hostel as unique • Not easy to be admitted and not easy to be retained • Promotes social inclusion • Both caring and confrontational • Immediately shows value for the person • Provides support and expects responsibility • Promotes informal support among Veterans • Provides training and educational opportunities • Individualized according to needs • Prepares individuals for next steps; resource development • Sustains involvement with former residents
Understanding Resilience • Jasonis an avid reader and intentionally focuses on improving his values and having positive beliefs; he considers himself very spiritual. • Sean was thrown out of East London Hostel several years ago for being drunk, angry, and violent. He returned five months ago, has stopped drinking and says he is committed to making something of himself. • Dave recently “graduated” from East London Hostel and has his own flat. In his own words, “I mean to see me now you wouldn’t have recognized me two years ago.” • Chris was living in a park and was a heavy drinker. What pushed him to stop drinking was a return to the park while at the hostel: “I sat there and I thought I couldn’t go back to this. I couldn’t go back to being like this.” It took him seven weeks at the hostel before sleeping in his bed. “The floor felt safe to me.” • James recognizes that his continued well-being starts with consistently taking his medication prescribed for mental illness. “Because if I don’t do that I find it very hard to get through the day.”
Understanding Resilience Understanding Resilience • Christy claims that East London Hostel is a Godsend. “You know, all I want to do is get a job and get back into work because sitting around is, you know, just sitting like tearing things apart.” • Michaelhas a history of getting into fights. He has a son he has not seen for eight months but is working with the East London Hostel social worker to prove his paternity and be a Father to his son. • Adrian, now employed in the construction industry and in the process of transitioning from East London Hostel, is involved in a positive intimate relationship, and says of his life today, “Yeah, now it’s completely different. One, because I like myself, but you know, I do genuinely like myself, yeah.”
Resilience & Vulnerabilities Resilience Markers Vulnerability Markers Family disruptions, past and present Alcoholism in family of origin and in own life Violence in family and community Unresolved interpersonal conflicts Social isolation/exclusion Vague sense of future • Positive memories of childhood • Positive family connections now; sense of legacy • History of occupational success • Independent living track • Management of mental illness and alcohol use • Active friendships • Connections with formal support systems
Resilience and vulnerability: U.S. Military families • “Ordinary magic”
The University of Georgia Research on Military Members & their Families • Social connections of adolescents, a study of 1000 youth • Family dynamics of military families, a study of 273 families, adolescents and their parents • Building community capacity, anonline education program, a program of U.S. Department of Defense, Military Community and Family Policy
Youth Well-Being & Social Support How do family transition and stress relate to important youth characteristics such as depression, school success, and personal mastery/efficacy? How do the social connections of youth mitigate how challenges affect these important youth outcomes?
Influence of Family Risks on Adolescent Outcomes Mental Health: Depression .068*** Cumulative Family Risk Cognitive Outcomes: Grades -.119*** -.135*** Mastery: Efficacy Conceptualized as: Number of School Changes Current Parental Deployment Parental Rank Adolescent Social Isolation Parent Marital History Minority Status Multiple Dimensions of Adolescent Outcomes
Influence of Family Risk on Adolescent Outcomes Changed by Social Provisions Mental Health: Depression -.365*** Support Ties Cumulative Family Risk Cognitive Outcomes: Grades -.144*** .306*** .387*** Mastery: Efficacy Measure of Social Provisions Reliable Alliance Subscale Attachment Subscale Social Integration Subscale NOTE: direct relationships between risk and outcomes not significant
Conclusions: Connections Among Youth in Military Families • Cumulative vulnerabilities (risks) are related to more depression, less success in school, and reduced ability to move forward despite challenges • The influence of social provisions: Even when an adolescent comes from a challenging family context, the influence of positive support ties (i.e., having someone to turn to, feeling connected) is related to positive adolescent outcomes. Having healthy ties to others is related to lower levels of depression, better grades, and higher levels of self-efficacy • In the face of vulnerabilities, relationships function to turn hopelessness to hopefulness
Persistence of parental adverse experience in early childhood What is the relationship between early childhood adverse experiences of parents and their current well-being? In turn, how do these experiences and their effects migrate to the lives of their children?
Conclusions: The persistence of adversity and implications for intervention • Parents’ adverse experiences in childhood (their family of origin) are relevant to their functioning as adults, in diverse ways (mental and physical health, relational health) • In turn, parents’ well-being is linked to their adolescents’ functioning (mental, physical and relational health) • The findings are especially pronounced for civilian spouses, as compared to parents who are military members • Intervention can be effectively aimed at particular dimensions of parents’ lives, especially non-military members
Financial issues and marital quality How do couple concerns about finances affect their marital quality? How do relationship warmth and hostility play into how concerns about finances and marital quality intersect?
Conclusions: Financial management & relationship quality • Concerns that married couples have about finances spill over into their warm and hostile behaviors • Marital quality is particularly sensitive to warmth. • Therapeutic interventions should target the expression of warmth, perhaps even more so than lowering hostility, per se
Revisiting change in families • We have explored general ways of thinking about family situations • A contextual framework has been proposed for making sense of the endless factors that comprise the everyday life of families, including ordinary and extraordinary challenges
The special case of Ambiguous Loss Pauline Boss, University of Minnesota Emerita Professor & Jay Mancini, 2013 University of Minnesota Ambiguous Loss Visiting Scholar Athens, Georgia July 2014
The special case of Ambiguous Loss: Professor Pauline Boss and Family Stress Management • Families are especially stressed by losses that are ambiguous • Is a family member absent or present? And how do we know this? • The lost person may be: • Physically present but psychologically absent • Physically absent but psychologically present • This increases the likelihood of being immobilized
Deployment & Ambiguous Loss Uncertainty when a family member is deployed Changes in how families function “Here but not here, there but not there”
Situations of Ambiguous Loss: 5 Stories* • Sarah Bajc, Philip Wood and Malaysia airlines Flight 370 • Donna Elliott and her brother Jerry who disappeared on January 21, 1968, in service to America • Charles Wolf, his wife Katherine and 9/11 • Donna Carnes and her husband Jim Gray, who went sailing in January 2007 and has not returned • Linda Lair and her husband Jim’s dementia *AARP Magazine, August/September 2014 (“The Missing” by Christopher Beam and David Dudley)
Recommendations for families & those who work with families • Exploit the social world and foster connections with the “good people” • Search for new meaning, for developing a new narrative of life, redefine how life will go forward • Recalibrate the “C” in the ABC-X model of stress • Recognize the influence of surroundings on quality of life • Search for the intersections of vulnerability and resilience
Who is there? Exploiting the social world • In neighborhoods where there is more fluidity than stability, more uncertainty than predictability, and more ambiguity than clarity, the odds of chaos increases. It’s hard to know who to go to, if you don’t know who is there.
Exploring New MeaningsVictor Frankl and the search for meaningThe symbolic interactionists and defining situations“If people define things as real, they are real in their consequences” William Isaac Thomas, The Child in America, 1928, p. 572.
Recognize Surroundings: Layers &Levels of Human Development & Contexts (Lerner) • Surroundings make a difference even if we do not recognize them. • For example, here is the social world of an adolescent
Intersections of Resilience & Vulnerability • Pitfalls and opportunity for growth often go hand-in-hand. • They are complex. • Life contains multiple paths.
In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.Alex Haley
Jay A. Mancini Jay A. Mancini is Haltiwanger Distinguished Professor at The University of Georgia, and director of the UGA Family and Community Resilience Laboratory. He is the 2013 Ambiguous Loss Visiting Scholar at The University of Minnesota. He is the author, with Pauline Boss and Chalandra Bryant, of Family Stress Management (3rd edition, Sage Publishers, in press), and editor, with Karen Roberto, of Pathways of Human Development: Explorations of Change (Lexington, 2009). For further information: firstname.lastname@example.org; 706-542-4331.