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Wednesday 26th June 2019

Child mental health linked to combat time

5th July 2011

There is a direct correlation between the amount of time soldiers spend deployed and the likelihood that their children will receive a mental health diagnosis, according to a recent US study.


The researchers found that nearly 17% of all children of active-duty US military personnel had mental health problems.

For the study, the reasearchers delved into the medical records of more than 300,000 children, all of whom had parents deployed by the US military.

The ages of the children under study ranged between 5 and 17 years old.

Lead researcher Alyssa Mansfield and colleagues wrote that children of parents who spent more time deployed between 2003 and 2006 fared worse than children whose parents were deployed for a shorter duration.

The vast majority of active duty US military personnel are married, with a further 15% raising children as single parents.

The researchers found that children of parents who were deployed at least once during US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were especially likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems.

Stephen Cozza, psychiatry professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, said that military families were forced to manage the consequences of repeated deployments.

He said that, in the military, deployment was a way of life, and that soldiers often brought their mental health issues back with them after returning home.

Previous research done on the children of deployed US military personnel has also shown that their children tend to develop mental health problems.

However, the recent study is the first to attempt to measure the effect of recent US deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan against the background of what researchers already knew.

The most common diagnoses of the 6,579 military children found to have mental health problems were acute stress reactions, depressive disorders, and behavioural disorders.

The researchers said that they had observed a clear dose-response pattern, such that children of parents who spent more time deployed between 2003 and 2006 fared worse than children whose parents were deployed for a shorter duration.

They said that these findings were similar to findings among military spouses.

Since US combat operations began in 2001, roughly 2 million military personnel have deployed at least once.

Cozza said he believed that the findings should be used to raise national awareness of the problem.

He also said he believed that doctors should pay special attention to military children, screening for anxiety, depression, behavioral problems, academic difficulties, peer relational problems, or high-risk behaviours such as substance misuse or unsafe sexual practices.

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