Deployed Soldiers’ Kids: How War Affects Their Adjustment

Unlike prior generations, many soldiers are parents. A new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine reveals that when they are deployed, their children may suffer.

Researchers conducted a retrospective analysis of over 300,000 children who had a parent or parents in the US Army from 2003-2006. Two findings stand out.

First, kids of deployed soldiers had higher rates of adjustment, behavioral, depressive, or stress disorders, as compared to kids whose Army parents were not deployed during that time period. Second, the length of deployment was an important factor — kids who had a parent deployed for 11 months or more suffered the most in terms of mental health and adjustment.

In an essay accompanying the scientific article, Dr. Stephen Cozza discussed the importance of the problem. He suggests that approximately 44% of active duty members have children, and around 43% of selected reserve members have children. The majority of these children are younger than 12 years of age. He estimates that since 2001, about 1.76 million children have experienced the deployment of a parent.

The families of deployed soldiers face a number of stressors. The children are without a parent; there is obviously anxiety about the safety and welfare of the parent; and overall family functioning is disrupted. In upcoming posts I will be discussing other studies that delve into the challenges that military families face, with the hope of raising awareness so that we all can try to support the families of soldiers who risk their lives serving all of us.

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