This research study entitled “The Effects and Implications of Environmental Disasters on the Family: Communicating, Coping, and Caring Among Families Impacted by the 2013 High River Alberta Floods”, explores family members’ struggles, difficulties, strengths, coping strategies, and needs resulting from the 2013 floods in the community of High River, Alberta.  This study examines communication, coping, and caring in family life post-disaster in order to determine how family life is altered by the disaster context, how experiencing a disaster influences family interactions and relations both inside and outside of the family, and how families manage and function during and after a disaster. This study specifically examines the following:

  1. How do disasters impact couple/spousal relationships in the family. Specific attention is given to communication, decision-making, coping, marital support, and marital conflict and dispute resolution among couples/spouses post-disaster.
  2. How disasters impact parent-child relationships in the family. Specific attention is given to parental support of children, parental awareness of children’s responses to disasters, parental communication with children, differences in parent-child relationships based on parental gender, the ways that mothers and fathers perceive their roles as parents, and parent-child conflict and dispute resolution post-disaster.
  3. How disasters impact the division of paid and unpaid labour in the family. Specific attention is given to decisions about who performs the paid and unpaid work in the family, ways of dealing with job loss, decisions about finding new employment, work performed inside and outside the home based on gender roles, and changing mothering and fathering roles in post-disaster situations.
  4. How disasters impact the family-school life, family-school dynamic, and family-school relationship? Specific attention is given to the post-disaster role and involvement of parents in their school-aged children’s educational responsibilities at home, their children’s academic performance, achievement, and success, and their involvement in their children’s schools and activities.
  5. How disasters create/heighten/influence family issues and social problems. Specific attention is given to family trauma, family distress, and family difficulties post-floods including substance abuse, infidelity, domestic abuse, child abuse, and divorce.
  6. How immigrant families are impacted by disasters. Specific attention is given to the ways in which the floods have affected immigrant family members, their communications and interactions within their family as well as within the wider community, and their adaptation and integration within the community post-disaster.
  7. What the primary needs of the family are post-disaster, and how the family can best be supported and assisted post-disaster.

Overall, 151 participants were part of this study which utilized a qualitative research methodology.  A total of 105 face-to-face interviews were conducted with parents who live in High River and who experienced the 2013 flood in order to understand family experiences and needs.  In addition, a total of 8 focus group interviewers with 46 individuals were conducted with key community representatives from local non-profit organizations in High River, Alberta in order to understand the overall community experience and needs.