Military Children and the Effects of Long Deployments on Them
Over the last several years, the children of parents who are serving in the military are facing increasing amounts of scrutiny. This is because one or both of their parents are being sent on long deployments to Afghanistan. These shifts are directly resulting in them and their caregivers having to make dramatic adjustments. (Wells, 2012)
According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), they found that their ability to adjust will involve the family situation, age and their environment. These factors are leading to some adapting more effectively than others. Evidence of this can be seen with observations from the report which says, "Children's reactions to deployment-related parental absence vary by age, developmental stage, and other individual and family factors. While young children are likely to exhibit externalizing behavior such as anger and attention difficulties, school-age children demonstrate more internalizing behaviors, such as increased levels of anxiety and fear, sensitivity to media coverage, and reduced school performance. While adolescents often take household responsibilities and become more independent, they were more likely to experience declining academic performance, depressive symptoms, and behavioral problems in response to emotional stress. The majority of military children demonstrated a high level of resilience to successfully cope with parental deployments. Despite strong support networks in military and civilian communities, the knowledge and resources to promote resiliency of military families and children are not centrally available. The literature on children of war veterans suggested that children of wounded Service members are at risk for emotional and behavioral problems. Longitudinal studies are needed to understand the long-term effects of living with the wounded Service member parents. There is no published comprehensive research on the impact of parental death on military children; civilian research on child bereavement has mixed results. Future research is necessary to better understand the trajectory of military children's bereavement over the span of childhood using a longitudinal study design. Though recent studies have found the linkage between parental deployment and the increase in child maltreatment, the generalizability of the findings need to be validated with more representative samples." ("Report on the Impact of Deployment," 2010)
This is illustrating how there is some information on the effects of deployments on children. Yet, much of the data is focusing on other variables and will only look at them from a secondary perspective. To understand the lasting impacts on them requires examining other studies and data in the form of a literature review. These findings will help to offer a better understanding about the impact of long deployments on children and how this influences their behavior.
Literature Review on Military Children and the Effects of Long Deployments
The various sources about the effects of long deployments will often take a limited focus on different ways they influence children. In these situations, the majority of the literature is looking at families and the individual solider / airman / sailor / marine. This provides some insights about these effects. Yet, it fails to examine the long-term consequences and specific situations that will have the greatest effects on them. This study is utilizing various pieces of information to provide a better understanding of the problem and how it is influencing their development. (Brit, 2006)
One of the most obvious issues all children will face is developmental challenges. This is because they will feel a sense of isolation from not being able to share their emotions and feelings with the parent who is overseas. When they do return, the child will become overly attached to make up for these issues. This causes them to become more distant during the deployment and very inward looking after it. (Baker, 2009)
According to Baker (2009), this will make it harder for the individual to express themselves and have normal social relations with others. Commenting about these challenges she said, "Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in war time deployments for military service members. We found young children with a deployed parent showed increased behavior problems during deployment and increased attachment behaviors at reunion compared with children whose parents had not experienced a recent deployment. Child behavior problems were related to many individual child and family characteristics, such as child age and temperament, length of the deployment, total time deployed parent was absent, number of moves, and number of stressors reported by parent. Child attachment behaviors were related to the length of the deployment, number of deployments, and the number of stressors faced by the parent. Soldiers and spouses of soldiers who chose not to re-enlist more often described themselves as depressed, and had children with many more behavior problems at reunion." (Baker, 2009) This is illustrating the developmental problems children will face before, during and after their parents return from deployment.
Moreover, Lester (2010) concluded that children will often fall into a state of depression and will externalize their problems. This means that they will act out to hide these feelings in the form of behavioral issues. These factors will influence their ability to address critical challenges in their lives and take control of events which are happening to them. These insights are adding to other research, by demonstrating how children will have trouble adjusting. This increases the chance of them being diagnosed with possible conditions (such as: depression or bipolar disorders). (Lester, 2010)
In most cases, the individual will have more problems in the months when the deployment begins and if it has been extended. For example, Engel (2010) found that during this time, children are more likely to perform well academically. This is because the added pressures and worries are causing them to lose hope. It is at this point, when they will fail to understand how this can help them in the future. Instead, they will underperform and refuse to discuss how the deployment is impacting them. (Engel, 2010) (Wadsworth, 2010)
In many cases, older children will have the most problems. This is because the deployment will have an effect on their social relations, family structures and perceptions of themselves. These factors will be reflected in their academic performance. Those who are facing greater challenges will experience decreases in their grades and test scores. (Chandra, 2010)
Other Factors Effecting Children
There are others factors that will have an influence on children. In most cases, those children from a home environment that is more abusive will face even greater challenges during a deployment. According to Lincoln (2008), these variables are important in identifying who is most vulnerable in these kinds of situations with her saying, "Research addressing such effects is limited in both scope and certainty; we can identify several key factors that relate to psychological risk, adjustment, and outcome. Most children are resilient to the effects of deployment of at least one of their parents, but children with preexisting psychological conditions, such as anxiety and depression, may be particularly vulnerable, as well as children with specific risk factors, such as child abuse, family violence, or parental substance abuse." (Lincoln, 2008) This information is showing other factors that will have an influence on the ability of children to adjust and who is most likely to have problems during this period. (Jensen, 1996)
Moreover, Gibbs (2007) is adding to these insights. In these cases, she found that when children are mistreated, the odds of them having some kind of psychological disorder increase exponentially. This is because they will go from one abusive situation to another. These changes become more pronounced as parents are stressed out and will blame the child for what happens in their lives. Evidence of this can be seen with Gibbs saying, "Parental stress is believed to play a critical role in child maltreatment, and deployment is often stressful for military families. Child maltreatment includes neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. Children who are maltreated are at increased risk for negative health behaviors, depression, and chronic health conditions, with negative effects extending into adulthood. Few studies have examined child maltreatment within military families, of which there were more than 1.1 million with children younger than 18 years in 2004.Limited knowledge regarding these families is of concern because of the possible impact of combat-related deployments on child maltreatment. Military families have been found to demonstrate high levels of resilience; nonetheless, deployments pose unique challenges. These deployments may affect the family's children, the soldier-parent preparing for (or returning from) deployment, and the parent remaining at home during deployment. Deployments have been associated with stress and behavioral problems among children in military families, situations that can exacerbate parental stress. Deployment also has been associated with increased stress among non-deployed parents, which may hamper their ability to appropriately care for their children. Parental stress (as mediated by their appraisals of the situation, available resources, and coping strategies) is believed to play a critical role in child maltreatment, particularly child neglect. This suggests that parents respond to stress either with positive adaptive behaviors or with dysfunctional…