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Military Children Struggle With Anxiety and Stress During Deployments Just As At-Home Parent

Posted Dec 08 2009 12:00am

If you are a military family, you now the struggles that can exist. It’s always hard on the spouses left behind during deployments but do you think about what it does to children long-term? A new study shows that children whose parents are deployed appear to have more emotional difficulties, stress, anxiety and problems within the family than their non-military peers. Researchers interviewed more than 1,500 military family members, including kids aged 11 to 17, nearly all of whom had a parent who was deployed or had been deployed once or more to Iraq or Afghanistan. There was no difference in how children fared based on the branch of the military in which their parent served. They also surveyed the parent, usually the mother, who stayed home. About 34% of 11-14 year old military children had moderate to high emotional difficulties. Younger children aged 7 to 11 years old, showed that 30 % of the military kids reported elevated anxiety symptoms, compared with 9 -15 % of non-military children. It seems that military children have to take on more household responsibilities, such as taking care of siblings, and feel less connected to school activities and friends as well as worry about the parent that is deployed. Though the study found that the number of deployments did not affect a child’s emotional health, the total number of months away did. The researchers also found that the when the parent at home was struggling and faced challenges, the children did too. The study also looked at those that lived outside of base versus on base. Those that lived on base did do better and were less anxious. Experts suggest that isolation might be an issue. On base, families are surrounded by neighbors and friends who know their situation and can help out and teachers trained for these situations can help with potential issues. The study also looked at the return of the deployed parent which also caused stress. Girls reported more difficulties adjusting to the deployed parent’s return home. Boys had more behavioral issues than girls, whereas older children tended to struggle more than younger children.

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