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Many Soldiers and Families Struggle with Deployment

Thousands of military families are coping with the dangers and sacrifices of deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Deployment can be a difficult time, for both the adults being deployed and the families they are leaving behind. Children face a host of special issues when one or both of their parents are deployed.

  • Deployment and family separations have become the dominant aspects of 21st Century military service and military family life (Killebrew, 2004).

  • A large proportion of the persons deployed in Iraq are members of the National Guard and military reservists. Unlike active-duty soldiers, these individuals are civilians who are not steeped in military culture; they reside in the community instead of on military bases; they did not volunteer for full-time service; and they did not expect to be serving in serving in a war zone. As a result, these individuals may suffer serious consequences including adverse reactions to the traumatic stress of war, and disruption of marriages, families and work life (Hoge et al.,

    • 2004)


  • Families of deployed guardsmen and reservists face challenges beyond those of active-duty families. Guardsmen and reservists generally do not have the built-in support system that comes from living in or around a big military base with lots of other families in the same boat.

  • The changing composition of today’s military, especially the increase in married personnel and the influx of female service members, and active duty single parents, has created concerns about child care within the family (Drummet, Coleman & Cable, 2003).

  • During separation, children often display minor to serious behavior problems, including anxiety, sleep disturbances, and an increase in physical ailments (Drummet, Coleman & Cable, 2003; Ursano & Norwood,

    • 1996)


  • When one parent is deployed, the remaining parent is likely to encounter separation strain, loneliness, role overload, role shifts, and financial concerns, changes in community support, increased parenting demands and frustration with the military bureaucracy (Bennis, 2004; Vormbrock, 1993). This may progress to anger, anxiety, and depression (Fisher McNulty, 2005).

  • Separation can create boundary ambiguity, a situation in which the family becomes unclear about which roles each member plays (Boss, 1980). Once resolved, family members assuming new responsibilities may be reluctant to relinquish them upon return of the soldier (Riggs, 1990).

  • Divorce rates for all branches of the armed services have increased since 2004 with rates being significantly higher for military women than for men (Jowers & Cavallaro, 2005).


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