Approximately 2 million children in the United States have at least one parent deployed in military service; 750,000 of those children are 5 years old and younger. Deployment can disrupt children’s well-being and development due to its impact on the care children receive, the destabilization of daily routines, and the effect on soldiers’ physical and psychological health upon returning home. Research has indicated that for some children, separation during deployment contributes to heightened levels of behavioral problems, psychiatric difficulties, and poor school performance.
At a symposium during the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) Biennial Meeting, researchers addressed the effect of parents’ deployment on children. Using risk and resilience models, they identified the critical role of families in influencing how children’s adjustment is affected.
Among the questions that were addressed:
- What is the relationship between parents’ deployment and children’s well being, considering not only children’s mental health but also the influence of the deployment on children’s ability to achieve developmental tasks that form the foundation for later adjustment success?
- What role do combat-related injuries play and how do such stressors affect children’s and families’ well-being?
- What are the most effective ways to treat post-deployment family struggles that affect young children?
The symposium also included a discussion with a member of the military who spoke about the relevance of this research, efforts to support military families, and the public policy and treatment implications of this work.