Kids' mental health problems linked to their parents' deployments

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Children's author and illustrator Trevor Romain visited Fort Carson, Colo., to discuss coping strategies for the children of service members. An unrelated study

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]

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  1. I understand how this can effect children and the stay at home parent.

    I am happy to see that the children are being care for.
    My question is: What treatments are being used?

    There are many ways to help these child (mentioned in previous article) that do not include medication.

    Our children are our future and if they are “helped” by using drugs/medications instead of love, attention and understanding – I thin they are being taught the wrong solution to problems that may occur.

  2. I feel for the parents of the military men, who leave their children because of their jobs and at the same time serving their country in the most noble way possible. It is really hard for children to cope without their father or mother in the military. One treatment option which is worth considering is sending the children to boot camp. This will help develop their personality as they will belong to a trusted group of individuals. Their stay will enable them to learn traits of discipline as well as being able open up during counselors for guidance which is rightfully acceptable to military parents.

  3. Medication and rehabilitation should be the last thing on our minds. We should place them in support groups to make them feel they are important and recognized. Parents should consciously do follow ups. provides a great program specifically for problems mentioned above sans medication.

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