The Impact of Parental Deployment on Child Social and Emotional Functioning

Perspectives of School Staff

Published In: Journal of Adolescent Health, v. 146, no. 3, Mar. 2010, p. 218-223

Posted on on December 31, 2009

by Anita Chandra, Laurie T. Martin, Stacy Hawkins, Amy Richardson

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PURPOSE: Since 2001, many military families have experienced multiple and extended deployments. Little is known about the effect of parental deployment on the well-being of children, and few, if any, studies to date have engaged school staff to understand whether and how parental deployments affect the behavioral, social, and emotional outcomes of youth in the school setting. METHODS: Focus groups and semi-structured interviews were conducted with teachers, counselors, and administrative staff at schools serving children from U.S. Army families (N = 148 staff). Participants were queried about the academic, behavioral, and emotional issues faced by children of deployed soldiers. Data were analyzed for themes in these areas, with attention to differences by service component (Active Component vs. Army Reserve and National Guard). RESULTS: Although some children seem to be coping well with deployment, school staff felt that children's anxiety related to parental absence, increased responsibilities at home, poor mental health of some nondeployed parents, and difficulty accessing mental health services affected the ability of other students to function well in school. CONCLUSIONS: School staff felt that parental deployment negatively affected social and emotional functioning for some children and youth, although they felt others were coping well. Future research should examine factors related to youth outcomes during parental deployment (e.g., mental health of the non-deployed parent) and assess the effects of deployment on other measures of behavior such as school engagement and academic performance.

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