A recent study done by University of Washington's School of Public Health measured the effects of the strain of military deployment on American families, specifically who adolescent boys and girls who had at least one parent on active duty. The study was presented at the American Public Health Association's 139th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. on Monday.
Last year alone, almost 2 million children in the United States had a least one parent serving in the military. The effects on military deployment has been a trending topic to research in recent years. However, the new study is known as the first of its kind to focus on those affected by deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.
The study was based of off a 2008 survey of about 10,000 students in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades in Washington, as it is the sixth largest active duty population in the country. The study compared both male and female military children and their behaviors versus non-military children. Researchers tried to factor in for possible differences in educational background, and other issues between military families, and the general population that may have twisted the results.
With all of the differences accounted for, the results for the study were still quite shocking. Besides the traditional emotional affects such as anxiety, depression and insomnia, researchers also found that when at least one parent is deployed in the military, their children are more than twice as likely to carry a weapon, join a gang or be involved in fights. Those results, not only show significant increases in the soldiers' sons, but also their daughters too.
"This study raises serious concerns about an under-recognized consequence of war," stated Sarah Reed, the primary researcher in the study of military families in Washington. The findings show that between 8th grade boys with a parent on military deployment, the risk was 1.77 times greater of fighting, and those same boys also had 2.14 times higher chances of belonging to a gang. 8th grade Girls had a double increased risk of carrying a weapon. The 10th and 12th graders also showed similar results. Girls in that age bracket with a deployed parent were 2.8 times more likely to be a member of a gang, 2.6 times more likely to be involved in fights and 2.2 times more likely to carry a weapon. Boys in those grades were 2.8 times more likely to carry a weapon, 2.48 times more likely to be involved in fights, and 2.08 times more likely to be in a gang.
These results are giving some military experts a wake-up call to just how much damage the war is having on American families. The soldier is not the only one who faces stressful situations during deployment. The remaining parent is now responsible for taking over both parental roles, while working, raising their children, and taking care of the household while the other is overseas. Also, once the deployed parent returns home, many times there is a transition period that is needed for them to get back in the swing of things. Many times, especially if the deployed parent was physically injured or came home with psychological damage, children are still faced with many emotional challenges.
Researchers believe that these findings are partly due to the youth missing out in a stable, positive opportunity to develop socially. Many times, it is not just the deployment time that hurts children, but it is also predeployment, long periods of deployment and multiple deployments in a short amount of time. Also, seeing the remaining parent going through emotional suffering is also hard for the children.
Shelby Till is a writer for 360 Education Solutions