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Shelley MacDermid - 2019 Lu Ann Aday Award

Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth

Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth – 2019 Lu Ann Aday Award

Shelley M. MacDermid Wadsworth is a professor of human development and family studies and director of the Center for Families and the Military Family Research Institute. She joined the Purdue faculty in 1989 after completing her MBA, MS, and PhD in human development and family studies at Penn State University.

Her research focuses on links between work conditions and family life, with a special focus on military families. MacDermid Wadsworth has received grants from the National Institutes of Health, the departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Agriculture, state governments, and numerous private philanthropies. She has served on federal advisory committees for the National Academy of Medicine and the Department of Defense, and has testified in Congress on multiple occasions regarding military and veteran families.

MacDermid Wadsworth has authored and co-authored over 100 articles, 37 book chapters, and made over 300 conference presentations nationally and internationally, including many invited, keynote, and plenary presentations.

At Purdue, MacDermid Wadsworth has been recognized with the Violet Haas, Women in Leadership, Faculty Engagement Fellow, and the Morrill Awards. Nationally, she is a fellow of the National Council on Family Relations, which recently recognized her with the Felix Berardo Scholarship award for mentoring. The Military Family Research Institute earned the Kellogg Award from the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, the Higher Education Civic Engagement Award from the Washington Center, and the Laura A. Wheeler Behavioral Health Champion Award from the U.S. Army National Guard.

Military Families: At the Intersection of Science and Service


The events of Sept. 11, 2001, propelled the U.S. into the longest armed conflict in its history. Over 2.7 million service members, most with family responsibilities, have deployed overseas since then. This new generation of combat‐exposed veterans presents scientists with both opportunities and challenges. In her lecture, Dr. MacDermid Wadsworth will consider three questions:

  • Why should scholars consider families in their research?
  • What is the scientific importance of military families, and what can they teach us?
  • How should scientists respond to times of war, and how can they maximize their impact?

Research Accomplishments

MacDermid Wadsworth has generated important insights about how involvement in work, family, and other roles relates to healthy human development and how workplace characteristics, policies, and practices affect workers and their families. Her studies of military families, among the first conducted during the current conflict, have examined the impact of military service and deployments on families.

Specifically, she and her collaborators have:

  • Mapped trajectories of individuals and relationships functioning over the course of deployment cycles.
  • Traced reverberations within intimate relationships of the impacts of deployment, revealing ways that partners “decouple” and “recouple” in response to separation.
  • Documented connections between deployment experiences and parenting, such as changes in parent behavior and how families “stage-set” or “gatekeep” interactions with service members during deployment.
  • Scrutinized systems of care to evaluate access, availability, and barriers
  • for families.
  • Built over the past decade a series of International Research Symposia on Military and Veteran families, which generated four edited volumes of research that included 185 contributors from seven countries in 38 disciplines or subdisciplines, which ultimately led to a book series edited by MacDermid Wadsworth.

Findings from her research are informing prevention and intervention strategies to minimize risk and maximize resilience among families, such as by identifying specific skills or supports that might help family members capitalize on their strengths and reduce the most important negative impacts of family separation and deployment.

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