Children on the Homefront

The Experience of Children from Military Families

Published In: Pediatrics, v. 125, no. 1, Jan. 1, 2010, p. 16-25

by Anita Chandra, Sandraluz Lara-Cinisomo, Lisa H. Jaycox, Terri Tanielian, Rachel M. Burns, Teague Ruder, Bing Han

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OBJECTIVE: Although studies have begun to explore the impact of the current wars on child well-being, none have examined how children are doing across social, emotional, and academic domains. In this study, the authors describe the health and well-being of children from military families from the perspectives of the child and nondeployed parent. The authors also assessed the experience of deployment for children and how it varies according to deployment length and military service component. PARTICIPANTS AND METHODS: Data from a computer-assisted telephone interview with military children, aged 11 to 17 years, and nondeployed caregivers (n = 1507) were used to assess child well-being and difficulties with deployment. Multivariate regression analyses assessed the association between family characteristics, deployment histories, and child outcomes. RESULTS: After controlling for family and service-member characteristics, children in this study had more emotional difficulties compared with national samples. Older youth and girls of all ages reported significantly more school-, family-, and peer-related difficulties with parental deployment (P < .01). Length of parental deployment and poorer nondeployed caregiver mental health were significantly associated with a greater number of challenges for children both during deployment and deployed-parent reintegration (P < .01). Family characteristics (eg, living in rented housing) were also associated with difficulties with deployment. CONCLUSIONS: Families that experienced more total months of parental deployment may benefit from targeted support to deal with stressors that emerge over time. Also, families in which caregivers experience poorer mental health may benefit from programs that support the caregiver and child.

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