2013 Bettinghaus Lecture - Steve Wilson on Military Deployment and Families

Posted on: April 23, 2013

Steve Wilson in lecture hallCAS welcomed back former MSU faculty member Steve R. Wilson on April 19, presenting his talk, "Military Deployment and Families: A Communication Perspective," as the Annual Erwin P. Bettinghaus Health Communication Lecture.

Wilson is Professor and Interim Head in the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University. His research and teaching focus on interpersonal communication, social influence, and conflict.

In his talk, Wilson discussed his recent projects exploring the impact of military deployment and reunion of families. One area of focus was how family members talk with returning service members who are having difficulty returning to civilian life. "Why is that a difficult conversation? It's simultaneously about influence, and support. It's about wanting to support that service member while at the same time suggesting that they take an action that they may not feel that thrilled about taking," said Wilson in an interview before his lecture. "It's intuitively a difficult conversation. And some communication folks would have a good idea about why that is, and advice that might be given on how to broach the topic."

Today's returning veterans face unique challenges compared to veterans of earlier wars. "Obviously, repeated deployments are different -- people being deployed two, three, four times. Where they're gone 12 to 15 to 18 months, they're back for a year, and then they're deployed again. So there are unique features to this."

For researchers, this context leads to "a set of questions that has begun to draw attention from a lot of different areas: family studies, health sciences, but communication, too," said Wilson. "Questions about resiliency. Why do some service members and families do really well in what seems like very stressful circumstances? Why do others do less well, and what kinds of skills or what processes help separate that out?"

"I have a son who's been deployed twice, that's how I got interested in it."

The annual Erwin P. Bettinghaus Lecture focuses on issues regarding health communication. The lecture honors Erwin Bettinghaus, a health communication expert who served as dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences from 1975 to 1995.

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