Skip to Main Content
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Board on Children Youth and  Families
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
  Strengthening the Military Family Readiness System for a Changing American Society  

 MIlitary FamiliesReleased in July 2019, this new Consensus Study Report from the Board on Children, Youth, and Families finds that the U.S. Department of Defense and military branches have many programs and policies to support the well-being of military families, but they need to employ a more coordinated and comprehensive approach to matching the needs of individual families to available programs. While most military-connected children and families are doing well, some families are falling through the cracks and would benefit from greater support. The report also concludes that due to the widespread changes in American societal norms and family structures that have occurred in recent years, addressing military famlies’ needs today requires greater attention to the diversity of family structures that exist today.

The DOD’s Military Family Readiness System (MFRS) includes a plethora of policies, programs, services, resources, and practices to support and promote the readiness and resilience of families. However, the MFRS is siloed; suffers from a diffusion of labor and responsibility; and, is at times, fragmented in its delivery of services. The system lacks a comprehensive, coordinated framework to support individual and population well-being, resilience, and readiness among military families. Addressing this weakness could improve the quality of services provided, encourage innovation, and support effective response capabilities.

Sponsor: U.S. Department of Defense

Read the summary  |  Read the report  |  Read the press release  |  Read the highlights  |  Read the policy brief

Video - Well-Being of Military Families

Stakeholder Engagement Session

September 12, 2019 - The National Academies of Sciences held a public meeting to bring together military and nonmilitary stakeholders to discuss the recommendations made by the Committee on the Wellbeing of Military Families in the recently released report, Strengthening the Military Family Readiness System for a Changing American Society. Military families encompass a broad spectrum of American society and have widely diverse needs that have materially changed in recent years as a result of broad changes in society. While most military-connected children and families are doing well, there are subgroups who would benefit from greater support. Recognizing that family well-being is essential to the effectiveness of the military services, the DoD offers the Military Family Readiness System (MFRS), a network of agencies, programs, services, and individuals that works to promotes the well-being and quality of life of military service members and their families. The Committee found that while there is no civilian equivalent to the MFRS, it lacks a comprehensive, coordinated framework to support well-being, resilience, and readiness. During this half day meeting committee members and others will come together to discuss the report recommendations and the actions that the DoD and practitioners can take to strengthen support for military families.

Presentations from this event:
Agenda  |  Introduction  |  Panel 1  |  Panel 3

Report Release Webcast

July 19, 2019 - The release briefing included an overview of the study process and discussion of the report’s conclusions, recommendations, and key messages. 

Project Description

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will convene an ad hoc committee to study the challenges and opportunities facing military families and what is known about effective strategies for supporting and protecting military children and families, as well as lessons to be learned from these experiences.

The committee will review available data and research on military children and families, including those who have left the military, with attention to differences by race, ethnicity, and other factors. The committee will also review related literature on childhood resilience and adversity. Specific topics may include:

1. What can be learned from the positive experiences military families have and the protection conferred on them through supports provided by the Department of Defense and service branches, with attention to specific interventions that have been effective and how they might be used at broader scales and in non-military contexts.

2. How the challenges presented by military life, such as frequent moves, exposure to trauma, and economic and other stresses to parents, influence children's social-emotional, physical, biochemical, and psychological development, and how those effects may vary across racial, ethnic, and other characteristics.

3. The mechanisms by which resilience can be fostered in military children and families, with attention to the broader literatures on human development, stress exposure, and resilience, as well as available research from other countries.

4. What is needed to strengthen the support system for military families, with attention to consistency of the current system of services and resources across population subgroups, service branches, and military status (including families who have left the military).

Voices from the Field: The Committee on the Well-being of Military Families (Public Information-Gathering Session)

The Committee on The Well-being of Military Families held a public information-gathering session on April 24, 2018 from 11:30 AM to 5:00 PM at the National Academy of Sciences Building (Auditorium), 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW, in Washington, DC. The committee is studying the challenges and opportunities facing military families and what is known about effective strategies for supporting and protecting military children and families, as well as lessons to be learned from these experiences.

Archived Webcast - April 24, 2018

Speaker Bios



Past Events

September 12, 2019 - Stakeholder Engagement Session

July 19, 2019 - Report Release Briefing

View the Webcast

July 17, 2019 - Podcast
For the Sake of the Child—Listen to the podcast

Meeting 5 (Committee Only)
December 4-5, 2018, Washington, DC

Meeting 4 (Committee Only)
October 2-3, 2018, Washington, DC

Meeting 3 (Committee Only)
June 6-7, 2018, Washington, DC

Meeting 2
April 24-25, 2018, Washington, DC Agenda  |  Speaker Bios

Meeting 1
 (Committee Only)
February 27-28, 2018, Washington, DC Meeting Agenda

Staff Information

Suzanne Le Menestrel, Ph.D., Study Director
Priyanka Nalamada, Associate Program Officer
Stacey Smit, Senior Program Assistant


   Join our mailing list to receive updates 
  about the project

  Activity Information 

  Type: Consensus Study
  Board: Board on Children, Youth, and

  Mailing Address
  Keck Center
  500 Fifth Street, NW
  Washington, DC 20001

 Committee Members

  Kenneth W. Kizer, M.D., M.P.H. (Chair)
  University of California, Davis

  David Albright, Ph.D.
  The University of Alabama, School of  
  Social Work

  Stephen J. Cozza, M.D.
  Uniformed Services University of the 
  Health Sciences

  Ellen DeVoe, MSW, Ph.D.
  Boston University, School of Social    

  Abigail Gewirtz, Ph.D.
  University of Minnesota

  Mary Keller, Ed.D.
  Military Child Education Coalition

  Patricia Lester, M.D.
  University of California, Los Angeles  
  Semel Institute

  Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, Ph.D.
  Military Family Research Institute at  
  Purdue University

  Laura L. Miller, Ph.D.
  RAND Corporation

  Tracy Neal-Walden, Ph.D.
  The Steven A. Cohen Military Family   
  Clinic Easter Seals

  Daniel F. Perkins, Ph.D. 
  The Pennsylvania State University

  Ashish S. Vazirani, M.E., M.B.A.
  National Military Family Association

  Ivan C.A. Walks, M.D.
  Ivan Walks & Associates 






BCYF Home About BCYF BCYF History BCYF Graphic Illustration BCYF Members BCYF Staff News and Events Impact News Projects in Development Upcoming Events Topics All Areas of Our Work Prenatal and Infancy Early and Middle Childhood Adolescence Young Adulthood Grandparents Families Publications BCYF Brochure BCYF Reports Report Briefs/Highlights Work With Us Our Study Process Study Process Brochure Getting to Know the Committee Process Overview for Sponsors Guide for Study Sponsors
left imagetext captioncenter image