Young children in military families are about 10 percent more likely to see a doctor for a mental difficulty when a parent is deployed than when the parent is home,
Young children in military families are about 10 percent more likely to see a doctor for a mental difficulty when a parent is deployed than when the parent is home, states the New York Times
Visits for mental health concerns, like anxiety and acting out at school, were the only kind to increase during deployment. However, complaints for all physical problems declined, the study found.
Researchers have long known that deployment puts a strain on families, particularly spouses. Experts said in the journal Pediatrics and including more than half a million children, significantly fills out the picture of the entire family as multiple deployments have become a norm.
“This study gives us an excellent beginning to understand what’s happening” in military households, said Benjamin Karney, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It’s pretty amazing that they were able to look at essentially the entire military population and strongly document something we suspected was happening but didn’t know for sure.”
In the study, a research team led by Dr. Gregory H. Gorman of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences analyzed the health records of 642,397 children ages 3 to 8 with parents in the military. It compared the frequency of health visits from 2006 to 2007 when a parent was deployed with those when the parent was home.
The researchers found that the children saw a doctor or other health professional about six times a year and about once every two years for a mental health reason. During deployment of a parent, however, the visit rate dropped by about 11 percent for physical problems but rose by 11 percent for psychological complaints. Stress, anxiety and attention-deficit problems were among the more common diagnoses, and mothers were far more likely than fathers to take a child to a doctor.
“It’s not clear yet whether kids are in fact suffering more mental problems when a parent is deployed, or that mothers are more attendant to any shift in behavior,” Dr. Karney said. “That’s the next question we have to ask.”
The rates were highest for 7- and 8-year-olds in two-parent families. This may be because when single parents deploy, children are left with caregivers who are less sensitive to changes in behavior and therefore less likely to seek treatment, the study’s authors suggested.
“These findings are especially important for nonmilitary pediatricians, who provide almost two-thirds of outpatient care for the children of military parents,” they concluded.
Despite the strain of duty, military marriages tend to be relatively stable, research suggests. In a recent study, Dr. Karney and John S. Crown of the RAND Corporation found time deployed was associated with a lower risk of divorce for most of the military, at least from 2002 to 2005.Tags: childs health, life care planning, mental health, military, pensions military, senior life care planning, veterans