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Clin Psychol Rev. 2016 Feb;43:17-29. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2015.11.003. Epub 2015 Nov 24.

The impact of military deployment on children: Placing developmental risk in context.

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Department of Psychology, University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology, University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA.
Department of Nursing, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA.
Department of Psychology, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, USA.


During recent conflicts in the Middle East, U.S. military families have endured multiple separations, relocations, and alterations in family structure/routines, combined with other significant stressors. This review examines what is known about children's mental health and functioning in relation to parental military deployment during conflicts spanning the last 14years. Findings are organized and considered by age group (i.e., toddlers and preschoolers, school age children, and adolescents) in an effort to highlight unique challenges and strengths present at different stages of development. Across all age groups, numerous studies document an increase in the number of military-connected children receiving mental health services in relation to parental deployment, though specific types of problems and long-term outcomes are not well understood. Evidence for a concerning increase in rates of child maltreatment related to parental deployment has also emerged. However, findings are largely based on aggregate data and the specific perpetrator is often unclear. Overall, we emphasize several critical next steps for research in this area including investigations characterized by greater methodological rigor, consideration of broader parental and contextual influences on child mental health, objective indicators of stress and coping, and longitudinal designs to examine persistence of child emotional/behavioral problems. A focus on adaptive/resilient outcomes is equally essential for understanding long-term outcomes and developing effective intervention programs.


Children; Deployment; Intervention; Mental health; Military families; Parents

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