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Kelley Writing New Deployment Blog for Psychology Today

head and shoulders photo of ODU psychology professor Michelle KelleyMichelle Kelley

Michelle Kelley, a developmental psychologist on the faculty of Old Dominion University, started researching military family dynamics more than two decades ago, so she was a natural choice when the magazine Psychology Today was looking for an expert to write a blog for psychologytoday.com called "Deployment Stories: Understanding Military Family Life."

Kelley's first posting, "Tips from a Submariner's Wife," appeared on Oct. 2.

"I was approached by an editor of Psychology Today after giving a talk at the American Psychological Association conference in August," Kelley said. "She asked if I would consider writing a blog on deployment for the magazine, and I agreed to write a monthly column. I was pleased to hear from the editor that the Psychology Today website gets 11 million hits per year."

Kelley said for this project she makes contacts with military families through word-of-mouth recruitment and recommendations, often via former students and colleagues at ODU and elsewhere. "I have had a mix of people from all branches of the military, and all over the country," she added. "However, currently I'm really looking hard for men who are partners of active-duty women, active-duty OCONUS (outside the continental U.S.) families, and LGBT members and partners. My goal is to mix up the blog to consider all types of families/situations.

"I have had many, many married female partners and women dating men in the military respond. In fact, so many I can't keep up."

In her first post, Kelley, a professor in ODU's Department of Psychology, passes on several tips from a submariner's wife who looks after three children while her husband is deployed. Tip No. 1 for anyone who stays home while a partner deploys is to keep busy with productive work: "Stay focused on your own (career) goals."

The wife featured in the column praises Skype interaction between her children and their faraway father: "For young children, being able to 'see' daddy on Skype really helps; in contrast, just hearing his voice can make them wonder where he is. ... They need visual and tangible reminders of daddy."

As for the tangible reminders, this wife keeps a jar of Hershey's kisses and doles out one a day to each child as a "kiss" from their father.

In 1994 Kelley was the lead author of an article, "Effects of Military-induced Separation on the Parenting Stress and Family Functioning of Deploying Mothers," for a special issue of the journal Military Psychology on women in the Navy. Since then she has integrated military family studies into her overall research on the subject of at-risk families. One thread of this research has involved the effects of parent alcohol and drug abuse, and related family violence, on short- and long-term child and adolescent outcomes.

Kelley was the principal investigator for a project between 1996-99, "The Impact of Deployment on Navy Women and Their Families," funded by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.