Kenneth Storz, a retired U.S. Army Reservist, talks with Dr....

Kenneth Storz, a retired U.S. Army Reservist, talks with Dr. Robert Petzel at the opening of the Unified Behavioral Health Center for Military Veterans and their families in Bay Shore. (Dec. 4, 2012) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

A childhood behavioral specialist from Massapequa is asking military families to participate in a pilot study of how Iraq and Afghanistan deployments impact family dynamics.

The study -- "Risk and Resilience in Military Families" -- will measure how deployments affect families by examining child behaviors, parenting stress, family relationships and sleep patterns.

It comes on the heels of local efforts to address psychological burdens faced by the families of returning combat veterans.

Last week, the VA and the North Shore/Long Island Jewish Health System announced the opening of a first-of-its-kind facility in Bay Shore. The center, which will be fully operational next month, will allow cooperating professionals to offer both medical and psychological services to military families under a single roof.

The family study is the work of Candice Alfano, an associate professor of clinical psychology at the University of Houston, and a 1990 graduate of Farmingdale High School.

"We want to disseminate this information to providers so they can be familiar with the unique needs and considerations of military families," Alfano said. She said that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has expanded efforts to engage combat veterans in mental health initiatives.

The study comes as Long Island's health providers increasingly acknowledge that spouses and children of veterans may be destabilized by fears of the veteran's death, anger over perceived abandonment, or resentment over having to adjust to long absences.

For Alfano's study, whose results are expected in a year, researchers will ask members of 100 families about such topics as coping mechanisms, and pre- and post-deployment parenting dynamics. Their responses would be collected via confidential questionnaires. Alfano plans to use the pilot study's results to design a larger one.

Eligible families include those with at least one parent who has deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, and at least one child between the ages of 2 and 17. Families interested in participating may contact the study's coordinator, Jessica Balderas, at 713-743-3400 or by email at

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