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Stress of Deployment Increases Risk of Child Abuse, Neglect in Military Families, UNC Study Shows

State records showed that the majority of substantiated child abuse and neglect that occurred in military families was perpetrated by a parent, Rentz said. Before October 2002, the parent who was in the military was the perpetrator of abuse and neglect about equally as often as the non-military spouse. However, between October 2002 and June 2003, the non-military parent was found to have abused or neglected the children more often than the military parent.

The stress of war extends beyond the soldier to the family left behind, Rentz said.

Although family support services are available in each branch of military services to assist troops and their families in preparing for and coping with family separations, Rentz said, it appears that either families are not able to access the resources available to them during periods of high stress or the services alone cannot adequately respond to the needs of the families.

Some kind of additional intervention should be considered, she said. This might include providing more support and educational programs for family members remaining behind during separations, as well as increased monitoring of family function during stressful periods.

Rentz also noted that this study was conducted using population data. A limitation of this study is that it just used aggregate data on maltreatment and deployment. This study tells us only about population patterns. We did not study individual families she said. To fully understand what is happening within military families, we need more research on the topic that includes information about individual families. Also, its important to understand that this study was conducted only among active duty personnel. It doesn't reflect what may be occurring in families of National Guard and inactive reserves. These families may have less access to support services than families of active duty personnel have.

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