A study published Monday looked at the medical records of more than 300,000 children aged 5 to 17 who had at least one parent on active duty in the Army between 2003 and 2006. It appeared in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine [Warning: It”s written in academic-ese].
The study found that 17 percent of the children were diagnosed with the mental health disorders, most commonly depression, behavioral problems, anxiety, stress and sleep disorders. The children where at a higher risk, the longer their parent was deployed, lead researcher Alyssa J. Mansfield, then of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, found.
Last year, Mansfield published a study that drew similar conclusions about the impact of deployments on military spouses. That study, which found, based on the medical records to spouses of soldiers who were deployed, that they were more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, sleep disorders and other mental health conditions.
Mansfield said at the time that understanding the scope of the problem can help the U.S. military better plan mental health prevention and treatment programs for the families of active duty personnel, and that the the study also may provide insight into families’ long-term medical needs.
In a commentary accompanying the pediatrics article, Dr. Stephen J. Cozza, from the Uniformed Services University School of Medicine in Bethesda, Md., noted that as of 2009, 44 percent of active duty military members have children (an estimated total of 1.2 million children), in addition to 43 percent of Reserve and National Guard members. Since 2001, about 2 million U.S. military personnel have deployed at least once.
“We used to think about deployment as a single experience: I go, I”m away, it”s difficult and then I come back. Well, it”s a way of life in the military that deployments continue to occur and families have to manage the consequences,” Cozza said.
Cozza said the children of deployed parents are worth monitoring.
“Brief screening for anxiety, depression, behavioral problems, academic difficulties, peer relational problems, or high-risk behaviors (such as substance misuse or unsafe sexual practices) is warranted and will help identify treatment needs,” Cozza said.[via U.S. News & World Report]