Military Family Children at Greater Risk of Depression and Behavioral Problems

By Julia Lynn Rubin, Parent Herald May 27, 02:42 pm
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A new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently published in the journal Pediatrics is highlighting the plight of children in military families, according to US News & World Report. According to the AAP's report, studies have found that one in four children of active-duty service members show symptoms of depression, one in three children experience excessive worrying, and half of children have trouble sleeping.

The AAP report said the problems can worsen when there are other psychological issues in the family. During a parent's deployment, which can last up to 18 months, preschoolers may become anxious and withdraw, the report said. Children between 5 and 17 are also at a greater risk for emotional and behavioral problems. and the situation may worsen when parents are on extended deployments.

The AAP also advised that parents or caregivers who remain at home with the children are also under greater stress, which could in turn affect the mental health and well-being of the children. 

"By understanding the military family and the stressful experiences of parental wartime deployment, all pediatricians - both active duty and civilian - and other health care providers can be the front line in caring for U.S. military children and their families," report co-author Dr. Benjamin Siegel said in an AAP news release. 

"In the past 10 years, more than 2 million children in the U.S. have experienced the emotional and stressful event of being separated from a loved one deployed for active duty," report co-author Dr. Beth Ellen Davis said in the release. "Most children cope and adapt quite well, but all children experience a heightened sense of fear and worry during a parent's deployment. It's important for pediatricians caring for these families to be aware of their family's situation so they can guide them appropriately." 

The AAP emphasized that all health care providers recognize the mental-health needs of patients with deployed parents, as well as those of other family members, as half of all children of active-duty military service members are cared for by nonmilitary pediatricians before, during and after deployment.

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