Children of deployed military face numerous stressors, including frequent moves, prolonged parental absences and the risk of a parent's death, the study noted. Beyond that, the multiple, successive deployments many soldiers have faced in recent years hits their children especially hard, said Rick Olson, a retired Army general and director of strategic communications for the Child, Adolescent and Family Behavioral Health Proponency in Fort Lewis, Wash.
"There are statistics that show how multiple and extended deployments are causing increased problems in terms of the behavioral health of our kids," said Olson, whose organization supports behavioral health care for military children and their families. "We hear that all the time from our commanders."
"Those kids are growing up . . . without a family member, so that causes a lot of problems," Olson added. "The re-integration process gets harder every time, because the kids get used to the parent not being there, and when they come back, they interrupt patterns that have been set. And then mom or dad leaves again."
In Gorman's study, the most frequent primary diagnosis during mental and behavioral health visits was attention-deficit disorder (ADD). Adjustment and autistic disorders came next, while farther down the list were mood and anxiety disorders, oppositional defiant disorder, developmental delays, post-traumatic stress disorder, bedwetting and separation anxiety.
In the cases of ADD and autism, Gorman thinks outpatient visits increased because those conditions may worsen during the deployed parent's absence and/or become harder to manage for the remaining parent.
Finding that visits rose among children with deployed fathers, Gorman believes that in many families the mother "might be the primary caregiver and might be more attuned to the children's behaviors and changes, subtle as they may be," he said.
Children of single military parents, who
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