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When Parent Is Deployed, Kids Struggle
Date:12/7/2009

The longer the absence, the worse children fare, study finds

MONDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Children whose parents are deployed appear to have more emotional difficulties, stress, anxiety and problems within the family than their peers, a new study shows.

Researchers interviewed more than 1,500 military family members, including kids aged 11 to 17, nearly all of whom had a parent who was deployed or had been deployed once or more to Iraq or Afghanistan. They also surveyed the parent, usually the mother, who stayed home.

Among children 11 to 14 years old, about 34 percent of those from military families had moderate to high scores on a test of emotional difficulties, compared with about 19 percent of children in a national sample of their peers.

Among younger kids, those 7 to 11 years old, about 30 percent of the military kids reported elevated anxiety symptoms, compared with 9 percent to 15 percent of non-military children from an earlier nationally representative study.

"What we found was that kids were reporting taking on more household responsibilities, such as taking care of siblings, and feeling like they were missing school activities," said study author Anita Chandra, a behavioral scientist at the Rand Corp. in Arlington, Va. "At the same time, they may be worrying about the parent at home and overseas and trying to manage their life of being a kid."

Though the study found that the number of deployments did not affect a child's emotional health, the total number of months away did. Many military personnel have been deployed four, five and even six times during the current wars, for lengths ranging from a few months to more than a year. In the study, the average number of months a parent had been deployed in the past three years was 11.

There was no difference in how children fared based on the branch of the military in which their parent served, according to the study, wh
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