Build it Together and They will Come: The Case for Community-based Participatory Research with Military Populations


  • Ellen R. DeVoe Boston University School of Social Work
  • Abigail M. Ross
  • Ruth Paris



Military families, Community-Based Participatory Research, OEF/OIF


In this article, we describe the methodology broadly known as community-based participatory research (CBPR) and identify its relevance to social work intervention research with families serving in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF). Since the inception of OEF/OIF, much has been written about low rates of service utilization among military service members and families to address deployment and combat-related concerns. Barriers to participation include difficulty accessing programs, mistrust of clinicians/researchers, concerns about confidentiality, stigma, and career implications, and perceptions of program effectiveness. Because CBPR values the community’s inherent resilience and expertise about its own needs, this method can be important for the development of feasible, culturally-relevant and evidence-based prevention and intervention models for military populations. To illustrate, we provide an overview of our implementation of CBPR to develop and test a home-based reintegration program for military families with very young children. Implications for social work practice and research are discussed.