Competence, Risk, and Resilience in Military Families: Conceptual Commentary

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This commentary highlights conceptual themes in the opening section of this special issue on military families in relation to a new synthesis of developmental systems theory that emerged from developmental, ecological, and family systems theory, as well as developmental psychopathology and risk/resilience frameworks. Articles in this special issue draw on these concepts to characterize and guide the burgeoning research on military families. This perspective emphasizes that multiple dynamic systems interact across levels to shape individual development, as well as the function of families and military units. Developmental timing is important for understanding how challenges of military life may impact individuals and families. Cascade effects are noted, where stress experienced by one family or service member can influence the function of other individuals or larger systems. Capacity for resilience is distributed across systems, including families and cultures, as well as resources or supports provided by military organizations to foster adaptive responses or recovery. These systems include schools and educational programs that play key roles in fostering and supporting resilience for children. Overall, developmental system concepts have considerable utility for guiding research with military families, particularly in regard to promoting resilience. Moreover, lessons learned from military families and programs may have much broader implications for many other nonmilitary children, families, and organizations that share similar goals and challenges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-281
Number of pages4
JournalClinical Child and Family Psychology Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Competence
  • Developmental systems
  • Developmental timing
  • Military children
  • Military families
  • Resilience


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