Do Military Children Struggle with Reintegration When a Deployed Parent Comes Home?

It should come as no surprise to learn that being a child in a military family can be challenging. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, infants, 18 year olds, and all the ages in between can be negatively impacted by a parent’s deployment. They can suffer from sleep problems, aggression, and alcohol/drug abuse. Because of these difficulties stemming from a parent being away, one would assume that their return home would end these issues and allow the children to move past them. However, one would be wrong.

In a recent study, School of Family Life professor Jeremy Yorgason found that, for some children, the transition was quite difficult: “Parents reported relatively low levels of military children’s reintegration difficulty overall… but…parents who experienced depressive symptoms…relationship uncertainty…and interference from a partner…indicated that their children had more difficulty with reintegration.” These difficulties were stable over the three months that the study was conducted.  Dr. Yorgason believes that understanding the results of this study will help military families: “Helping military couples lower depression, strengthen their relationship, and be more harmonious in their parenting and family interactions would seem to help military children with the post-deployment reintegration process.”  He further hopes that: “military family policy and programming will benefit from a better understanding of the relationship dynamics of the post-deployment transition so that military families can be better supported during this challenging time.”

Dr. Yorgason and his colleagues will continue their research, this time with more families over a longer period of time. They will focus on “…the marital processes that occur during the post-deployment phase, and…how reintegration difficulties fluctuate across the transition.” Dr. Yorgason’s elucidation of the problems faced by children in a recently reunited military family will no doubt prove valuable for both further research and the military.

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