Mental Health of Military Kids Impacted by Parents’ Deployment

Children with parents in the military are more likely to experience anxiety than their peers, the New York Times reported Dec. 7.

The more time a parent has spent deployed in the past three years, the likelier their children are to struggle at school and home, according to the study conducted by the RAND Corporation. Some of the difficulties found include missing activities at school, feeling misunderstood, and having problems interacting with deployed parents upon their return.

Researchers surveyed more than 1,000 children ages 11 to 17; at least one parent had been deployed in 95 percent of the families that participated. The average deployment lasted a total of 11 months. 

Researchers said they were surprised by the link between how long the parent was deployed and the negative effects on the children. “We thought the challenges of deployment would wane as the deployment went on,” said Anita Chandra, the study’s lead author.

Girls and older siblings tended to have more difficulties than boys and younger siblings, possibly because they have to help more with household responsibilities, the researchers said.

The military should consider providing services for families during the final stages of longer deployments to make sure families get help when they need it the most, said Chandra.

The study appears in the December 2009 issue of the journal Pediatrics

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