Worcester Psychologist Wins Renowned Fulbright Award for Research into Children and Military Families

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A leading British Psychologist will travel to America later this year to learn more about how the US supports its military families on one of the most prestigious and selective scholarship programmes operating world-wide.

Dr Gabriela Misca, Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, will spend 10 months in Boston, Massachusetts, after securing a prestigious Fulbright Scholar Award to develop her research on UK military families. Her Fulbright research programme entitled “Parenting under fire: a cross-cultural examination of child maltreatment in military families” aims to promote understanding of children growing up in military families and share learning between the UK and US context through collaborative cross-cultural research.

Dr Misca, from the University of Worcester, said: “I am very excited to have been granted a Fulbright Scholar Award. It has been my dream to go to the US to continue my research into this area.

“There has been heightened interest in recent times about the wellbeing of military personnel and veterans, and the need to support their transition and resettlement into civilian life. However, there is a distinctive gap in UK research about the impact of this transition on the children of those military personnel. The Fulbright project provides an ideal opportunity for knowledge transfer across from the US to the UK, as well as collaborative cross-cultural research. As a Fulbright Scholar I will be spending time with both practice agencies and research partners in the US exploring research and best practice in supporting military families to assess their cultural transferability.”

The US-UK Fulbright Commission is part of the Fulbright programme conceived by Senator J William Fulbright in the aftermath of World War II to promote leadership, learning and empathy between nations through educational exchange. Scholarships are extremely selective, with only five All-discipline Scholar Awards made in the UK each year.

The Commission selects scholars through a rigorous application and interview process. In making these awards the Commission looks not only for academic excellence but a focused application, a range of extracurricular and community activities, demonstrated ambassadorial skills, a desire to further the Fulbright Programme and a plan to give back to the recipient’s home country upon returning.

Dr Misca will be hosted by the Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law (CECFL) at the William James College (formerly Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology), which is at the forefront of integrating rigorous academic research with professional practice related to families in conflict, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect and military families.

Dr Robin Deutsch, the Director of the CECFL said: “We share Dr Misca’s vision that her proposed Fulbright research will further develop mutual understanding of children in military families through collaborative cross-cultural research. We are also in an excellent position to help Dr Misca to make relevant links with the Military and Veterans Psychology programmes here at the William James College, which is approved as an Institution of Higher Learning under the Yellow Ribbon Programme of the US Department of Veterans Affairs and hosts the “Train Vets to Treat Vets” initiative.”

Dr Misca said she hoped her Fulbright research would lead to a greater understanding in the UK of the challenges faced by children whose parents serve in the armed forces, which include regular relocations and school moves, coping with having a parent away for extended periods, and sometimes the effects of the loss or injury of a parent during service.

“Children and adolescents of military parents are a diverse population around the globe, however, compared to the general population of children and young people, they face a range of unique stressors due to their particular family circumstance; these include parental separation during deployment, additional stress of the left-at home parent and family, deployed parent injury and death, and reintegration stress, including health issues and war-related trauma of the returning parent. Whilst many children show remarkable resilience and thrive in military families, such stressors can bring wide-ranging challenges to the adjustment and wellbeing of military children,” she said.

Upon return from her Fulbright year, Dr Misca hopes to provide leadership on developing a programme of research and training at the University of Worcester focused on a cross-section of issues confronting the military families in the UK, in collaboration with research and practice partners and military community agencies.

Dr Jan Quallington, Head of the Institute of Health and Society, said: “We are delighted that Dr Misca has won this prestigious award. Research and development of practice around children, young people and families is a distinctive feature of work in the University of Worcester. Dr Misca’s work in the US will add an important international dimension to this work and will support the development of international networks in this field of work through which high quality, collaborative research can continue.”