The Pain of Deployment

Mental illness impacts military children too

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The stress of having a parent deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan can wear on any child. Long-term deployment, though, may have a major impact on children, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered that children who have one or more parents deployed abroad for long periods of time are more prone to mental health problems.

Although past research has shown that the deployment of parents can lead to depression in children, not much research on the present wars’ effects has been done, the scientists said. The researchers found that mental-health diagnoses like depression and stress reactions were more common for children who had one or more parent deployed in the U.S. Army.

"Deployed military parents should seek mental health care for their children."

A mental-illness diagnosis became more likely the longer the parent was deployed, researchers, including lead author Alyssa J. Mansfield, now of the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Honolulu, concluded. The scientists said it’s clear that long deployments took a mental-health toll on children.

Researchers urged other scientists to look into the effects of deployment in other branches of the military. The researchers looked at electronic medical records for outpatient care at military facilities or through military insurance for children aged 5 through 17. Examining the records of more than 307,000 children.

The study was published online in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

In a commentary accompanying the study, Dr. Stephen J. Cozza of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., said the study should be used to raise national awareness of the problem.

Dr. Cozza urged doctors to pay close attention to the children of deployed parents to look for mental-health problems.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 6, 2011
Last Updated:
July 10, 2011