Panel Paper: Parental Deployment and Children's Adjustment: The Military Child in Hawaii Study

Friday, November 8, 2013 : 9:45 AM
Georgetown II (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

M.E. Hughes, Kristin Mmari, Robert Wm. Blum, Lynne Michael Blum and Daesha Ramachandran, Johns Hopkins University
The length and scope of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have raised significant concerns about the impact of deployment on military personnel.  This concern extends to the families of service members, including their children.  Parental deployment may pose risks to children’s well-being both directly, through the effects of the parents’ absence and danger on children’s stress, or indirectly, through the effects of the deployment on the parent remaining at home and overall family functioning.  These effects are likely not limited to the period of deployment; the deployed parent’s return will require adaptation within the family, which may be exacerbated by injury, mental illness, or marital conflict.  Parental deployment may have long term consequences to the extent that resulting instability affects children’s developmental or educational trajectories.  

In this paper, we use data from the Military Child in Hawaii Study (MCHS) to analyze the relationship between parental deployment and three dimensions of child adjustment: educational progress, behavior problems, and emotional well-being.  The MCHS is a multi-method study of military families with school age (10-17) children conducted between 2010 and 2012.  By design, the MCHS focused on children’s education and well-being.  The study includes all branches of the military and Hawaii’s role as a point of departure for deployment means that a large fraction of study participants have experienced deployment.  The quantitative component of the study includes a parent survey containing 1,479 respondents and a child survey with 181 respondents.  These data include 117 parent-child dyads.  The qualitative component includes 31 focus groups with parents (both male and female, both civilian spouses and military members) and 22 focus groups with children. 

We use these data to examine the relationship between parental deployment and the three dimensions of children’s adjustment, including educational outcomes, behavior, and well-being.  We assess the impact of multiple deployments.  We then examine several factors that we expect to mediate or moderate the relationship between parental deployment and child adjustment, including impact of deployment on civilian parent and community integration.  Preliminary analyses suggest that deployment is negatively related to child well-being; however, community integration may mediate some of the adverse consequences of deployment.