December 7, 2009

Military teens suffer emotional costs of war

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carol_smithwebThe adjustment issues, mental health problems, and stress-related disorders experienced by deployed and returning servicemen and women have been widely documented. Less has been said about the children, especially teens, who suffer the secondary effects of a parent’s deployment. The Oregonian’s Julie Sullivan reports on a new study that shows military teens, especially girls, suffer lingering emotional effects and behavioral problems – even after a parent returns from deployment. 

The study, sponsored by the National Military Family Association and reported today in the journal Pediatrics, found that 34 percent of military kids deal with such issues, compared with 19 percent of children in civilian families.

As a culture, we like to focus on the picture-perfect moment when the soldier comes home. You-tube abounds with videos of returning dads surprising their children, an ecstatic moment to be sure. But then the cameras shut off, and the children have to deal with the aftermath of a parent’s absence as well as the parent’s own fallout from war.

Oregon has about 7,000 families with a member in the National Guard. Washington, too, has thousands of Guard families.

The children of deployment experience difficulties in school, anxiety over their parents’ marriages, worry about redeployments, difficulty relating to other kids and fighting. The longer a parent’s deployment, the more trouble they have.

Clearly, issues facing returning veterans are complex. Family trouble only makes them harder to deal with, which in turn only makes it harder on families.

–Carol Smith

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