Researchers examined the behavioural difficulties of children in military families whose parents are deployed. The study, which may be the first of its kind, is published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, examined a small number of children between the ages of 1.5 and 5.
At first glance, no differences were noted between children whose parents were deployed versus those who were not. However, when the children were grouped according to age, families with a deployed spouse and kids 3 and older reported more externalizing problems: aggression, arguing, rule-breaking, tantrums, etc. Internalizing behaviours (such as sadness or worry) were also elevated. The behaviours reported in the study were recorded using questionnaires; the high scores fell in a range that typically suggests that clinical intervention is recommended. It could be assumed that the parents’ ratings were affected by having a partner who was at war. However, the association between problem behaviours and deployment remained even after parental stress and depression were controlled statistically.
Interestingly, no differences in behaviour were found between deployed and nondeployed families with children under 3. Also, the small study didn’t look at children whose parents were away from home for other reasons – it is possible that children whose parents travel extensively may experience similar behaviour and mood problems.
You can read more (the entire study at the time this is being posted) here.