Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Roundtable explores effects of deployment on military children

2nd Infantry Division photo
Andrew Gonyea 
Communications Assistant

DoD Live recently hosted a bloggers roundtable with Alex Baird, Chief of Family Programs for the National Guard Bureau (NGB), who discussed the changing needs and new challenges of National Guard families experiencing multiple deployments. ROA posed two questions, which got to the heart of the matter: Do we have statistics regarding the stress military children experience as a result of constant use of Guard and Reserve personnel in today’s contingency operations? And what are some programs helping to address that issue?

Regarding the first question, there has been some preliminary research into military children’s difficulties with deployments, but there needs to be more. In 2009, a RAND study, commissioned by the National Military Family Association (NMFA), was released. The study, titled “Children on the Homefront: The Experience of Children from Military Families,” involved a survey of 1,500 military children and each child’s non-deployed parent by phone, and explored how those children were faring academically, socially, and emotionally during an extended period of wartime. Of those children, 95 percent had experienced at least one parental deployment in the previous three years, and 40 percent were experiencing deployment at the time of the interview. Thirty-seven percent were children of Guard and Reserve members.

The results indicate that rates of anxiety and emotional and behavioral difficulties are higher among military children than non-military children. Also, self-reported problems varied by age and gender. Older children and boys reported more difficulties with school and more behavioral problems, such as fighting. Younger children and girls reported more anxiety symptoms. And longer periods of parental deployment had a negative effect across the board.

The study concludes that more research is necessary. Among other things, it identifies a significant need to research the link between caregiver mental health and child well-being, and suggests that families in which caregivers experience mental health difficulties may need more support for both caregiver and child.

Programs that are helping military children cope with the difficulties of parental deployment have one important aspect in common: an emphasis on engagement. The National Guard Bureau’s Family Programs team has formed teen panels within states and the District of Columbia to be advisory groups and provide direct insight into the lives and challenges of teenaged military children. And Operation Purple Camp is an initiative which provides military children, through free summer camps, an opportunity to build relationships with other military children, boost morale and gain a better understanding of what their military parent does in preparing to deploy.

In responding to these important questions, Baird observed that DoD has done a superb job building battle minds to prepare soldiers for deployment, and then they focused on preparing spouses. He predicted that their next great challenge will be to find ways to make military children more resilient and able to cope with deployment.

1 comment:

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i too feel that more research is really required in this field and families in which caregivers experience mental health difficulties may need more support for both caregiver and child it will be really good if we could find ways to make military children more resilient.