Deployment Stress Affects Children And Families

Read Complete Research Material


Deployment Stress Affects Children and Families

Deployment Stress Affects Children and Families


By the end of 2008, 1.7 million American service members had served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF).1 Military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan run the risk of developing problems such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, and traumatic brain injury due to their deployment. Studies of these returning service members and Veterans have found rates of 4% to 14% for depression, 12% to 25% for PTSD, 11% to 19% for traumatic brain injury, and 18% to 35% for any mental health risk or concern. (Barnes, 2007, 40)

Deployment Stress Affects Children and Families

Forty-three percent of active duty service members have children.5 These children face the challenges inherent in having a parent deployed. Many of them must also cope with living with a parent who returns profoundly changed by war. Most families will be able to overcome these adversities through the support of family, friends, and community. Others, however, will need additional help from service providers to strengthen their resilience, access needed services, (Barnes, 2007, 40) and readjust to life post-deployment. Veterans themselves recognize the need for such services. In a recent study of Veterans receiving treatment for PTSD, nearly 80% were interested in greater family involvement in their care. (Barnes, 2007, 40)

While frequent moves, absence of the military parent, and other stresses are common for military families, the deployment of a parent to a combat zone represents a challenge of a different magnitude.7 For the parent who stays behind -- usually the mother -- increased family responsibilities, financial issues, isolation, and fear for their spouse's safety can cause anxiety, loneliness, sadness, and a feeling of being overwhelmed. (Barnes, 2007, 40)

Children's reactions to a parent's deployment vary by child, and more broadly, by a child's developmental stage, age, and presence of any preexisting psychological or behavioral problems. Very young children may exhibit separation anxiety, temper tantrums, and changes in eating habits. School-age children may experience a decline in academic performance, and have mood changes or physical complaints. Adolescents may become angry and act out, or withdraw and show signs of apathy.9

Especially for young children,10 the mental health of the at-home parent is often a key factor affecting the child's distress level. Parents reporting clinically significant stress are more likely to have children identified as "high risk" for psychological and behavioral problems. (Barnes, 2007, 40)

Older studies of Vietnam Veterans demonstrate the negative impact on families of war-related PTSD. These Veterans have higher levels of marital problems, family violence, and partner distress. Their children present more behavioral problems than do those of Veterans without PTSD. Veterans with the highest levels of symptomology had families with the worst functioning. The numbing and avoidance experienced by Veterans with PTSD is associated with lower parenting satisfaction.14 The difficulty these Veterans have experiencing emotions and their sense of detachment may make it difficult for them in their personal relationships, and may even lead to behavioral problems on the part of ...
Related Ads