Kayla Reed Fitzke, assistant professor of Couple and Family Therapy, in her office

May 24, 2019

Kayla Reed Fitzke, an assistant professor in the University of Iowa College of Education's Couple and Family Therapy Program, wants to help at-risk soldiers, early in their careers, get the support they need to be safe and successful.

Thanks to receiving a Society for Military Psychology Member/Affiliate Research Grant, Reed Fitzke will be able to pursue research in this area.

The $2,500 grant will help fund her research project, "Identifying At-Risk U.S. Army Soldiers: A Person-Centered Approach to Adverse Childhood Experiences."

Reed Fitzke is the principal investigator, and James Duncan from the University of Arkansas is the co-investigator.

This study seeks to identify at-risk early career service members by using a novel, person-centered approach to examine adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), combated-related stressors, and mental health. Adverse childhood experiences include verbal, physical, or sexual abuse, as well as family dysfunction, such as an incarcerated, mentally ill, or substance-abusing family member; domestic violence; or absence of a parent because of divorce or separation.

This is critical, Reed Fitzke says, because there are more than 3.5 million individuals serving in some capacity in the U.S. Armed Forces. As service members train and progress through their military careers, they will be confronted with numerous stressors such as future deployment overseas.

Empirical evidence indicates that ACEs are a critical public health concern since they are linked to mental health disorders and several leading causes of death.

"Given the military's desire to maintain mission readiness and respond to rising global threats quickly, it is imperative to identify areas of intervention early in the service member's career to help promote optimal functioning and health," Reed Fitzke says. "Using ACEs to help identify at-risk soldiers will bolster targeted intervention efforts."