-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- Children with a parent on
long-term military deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan are at
increased risk for mental health problems, new research
In the study, published in the July 4 online edition of the
Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, researchers examined the medical records of 307,520 U.S. children, aged 5 to 17, who had at least one parent on active duty in the U.S. Army and received outpatient care between 2003 and 2006.
During that time period, nearly 17 percent of the children were
diagnosed with a mental health disorder. The most common conditions
were depression, behavioral problems, anxiety, stress and sleep
disorders, the investigators found.
More than 62 percent of the children's parents were deployed at
least once during the study period, with deployments averaging 11
months. Mental health problems were more likely to be diagnosed
among children who had a parent who was deployed at least once to
Iraq or Afghanistan. The risk of a mental health problem among the
children rose with increased length of parents' deployment.
"We observed a clear dose-response pattern such that children of parents who spent more time deployed between 2003 and 2006 fared worse than children whose parents were deployed for a shorter duration," wrote Alyssa J. Mansfield, then of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, now of the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Honolulu, and colleagues. "Similar to findings among military spouses, prolonged deployment appears to be taking a mental health toll on children."
In an accompanying commentary, Dr. Stephen J. Cozza, from the
Uniformed Services University School of Medicine in Bethesda, Md.,
noted that as of 2009, 44 percent of active duty military members
have children (an estimated total of 1.2 million children), in
addition to 43 percent of Reserve and National Guard members. Since
2001, about 2 million U.S. military personnel have deployed at
The study provides "an important contribution to our
understanding of a child's health and its relationship to parental
combat deployment," Cozza said in a journal news release.
"Brief screening for anxiety, depression, behavioral problems, academic difficulties, peer relational problems, or high-risk behaviors (such as substance misuse or unsafe sexual practices) is warranted and will help identify treatment needs," Cozza concluded.
The U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive
Medicine offers tips for
supporting children of a military parent who is
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