Children ages 3 to 5 with a parent deployed to a war zone appear to exhibit more behavior problems than their peers whose parents are not deployed, according to a report in the November issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals1.
More than 2 million
Molinda M. Chartrand, M.D., of the Boston University School of Medicine and
Of the 169 families, 55 (33 percent) had a deployed parent, with an average deployment length of 3.9 months. Children age 3 and older who had a deployed parent had significantly higher scores on measures of externalizing and overall behavior problems than children of the same age without a deployed parent. “Such reported differences might be dismissed as distorted perceptions of the child by the distressed non-deployed parent; however, the association remained after controlling for parental stress and depressive symptoms,” the authors write. In addition, childcare providers reported similarly elevated scores.
“Larger, longitudinal studies are needed to ascertain whether there are changes in children’s behavior from the time before parental deployment, during parental deployment and at the time of reunification,” the authors write. “This information is necessary to provide clinicians serving military families with evidence-based anticipatory guidance and clinical interventions. Finally, the needs of the children of deployed parents in the National Guard and Reserves also warrant urgent further elucidation.”
“The decision to send troops into war is never taken lightly, and the sacrifices experienced by the soldiers, their families and their country are heavy burdens that may be considered intrinsic to war itself,” write David J. Schonfeld, M.D., and Robin Gurwitch, Ph.D., of the Cincinnati Children’s
“Findings from this study highlight the need for increased attention to the mental health concerns of young children of deployed soldiers as well as the mental health concerns of the soldiers and non-deployed spouses,” they continue. “They raise questions of how to best determine deployment length and what preventive measures can be taken to reduce stress and distress to the non-deployed spouses and children left behind.”
1. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008;162:1009-1014.
2. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008;162:1094-1095.