Parental Deployment and Children’s Health

first_imgBy Caitlin Hunter and Heidi Radunovich, PhDCreative Commons Licensing [Flickr, HMS Endurance returns to Portsmouth after long deployment, June 1, 2007] retrieved on September 8, 2015For children in the military, reunification with a deployed parent can be a joyous time. However, for military families, the stress of deployment is not confined to the parents. The stress of deployment can affect both the physical and mental health of the child. Similar stresses post-deployment, such as combat-related injuries, simply add to the stress military children might have. But how much of an effect does returning from war have on the frequency children need to access physical and mental health services?A study by Hisle-Gorman and colleagues (2015) examined how parental military deployment, as well as the presence of combat related injuries, impacted children’s need for health care services after parent’s return from deployment [2]. Specifically, the focus was on mental health visits, visits pertaining to injury (not relating to child maltreatment), and visits relating to child maltreatment. Children of deployed parents were much more likely to require visits to healthcare professionals for mental health, physical injuries, and child maltreatment after their deployed parent returned than did children whose parents did not deploy. For children of deployed parents, the likelihood of requiring such visits in all three categories was significantly higher if the parent returned with a combat-related injury. Child maltreatment visits were even higher when returning parents had sustained multiple injuries. This might be because the increased level of caretaking required for the parent might result in less attention being focused on the child, or greater stress for family members. Interestingly, parental injuries were not associated with child mental health visits or non-maltreatment related visits. This might mean that the overall resiliency a family must have to deal with combat-related injuries might be a significant protective factor for the general and mental health of the child. Previous research suggested that children have a greater need for health care services while a parent is deployed. However, this research suggests any problems which might be present during deployment might only be made worse post-deployment if proper preventative, proactive care was not in place. While this study highlights real issues faced by military children, it also found that children are receiving the post-deployment services they need. As military children receive almost half of their health care in off-base civilian facilities [1], it is important that all physical and mental health care professionals understand deployment-related issues and how they can affect the children they treat.References[1] Gorman, G. H., Eide, M., & Hisle-Gorman, E. (2010). Wartime military deployment and increased pediatric mental and behavioral health complaints. Pediatrics, 126(6), 1058- 1066.[2] Hisle-Gorman, E., Harrington, D., Nylund, C. M., Tercyak, K. P., Anthony, B. J., & Gorman, G. H. (2015). Impact of parents’ wartime military deployment and injury on young children’s safety and mental health. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 54(4), 294-301.This post was written by Caitlin Hunter  & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.last_img read more