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Children of combat-deployed parents show increased worries, even after parent returns
Date:4/8/2010

The current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in extended and repeated combat-related deployments of U.S. military service members. While much has been reported about the problems, both physical and psychological, many bring back with them, new research out of UCLA shows that the family back home can have issues as well.

The suddenly single parents left at home and their children must quickly adjust to altered family roles and the stress of having a loved one in a distant and dangerous land, in addition to dealing with potential psychological or physical health problems the active-duty parent may have upon their return.

Reporting in the April edition of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, UCLA assistant professor of psychiatry Dr. Patricia Lester and her colleagues found that it is the number and length of repeated deployments that cause higher levels of anxiety in children and that this anxiety persists even after the deployed parent returns home.

Second, they found that the level of anxiety children experience can be predicted by the amount of psychological distress shown by both the active-duty parent and the at-home parent.

Lester and her colleagues studied 171 families in which either the mother or father was on active duty, currently deployed or recently returned from serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Of the sample, the active-duty parent had, on average, been deployed more than twice and had been away from home for 16 months.

The researchers found that approximately one-third of the children in these families had increased symptoms of anxiety. Strikingly, the anxiety remained even after the deployed parent returned home.

"It's known that, in general, a child's level of distress is linked to parental distress," Lester said. "Here, we found that approximately one-third of the at-home parents and almost 40 percent of the recently returned
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Contact: Mark Wheeler
mwheeler@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2265
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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