The Struggles of Military Deployment and the Effects It Has on their Family
As a society member, people have rights, freedoms, and responsibilities. The military protects the rights and freedoms of society. It is our duty to watch out for neighbors, community members, and friends that are going through a deployment. Thousands of soldiers are deployed overseas each year in the United States. Multiple deployments for extended periods of time can cause many challenges for military personnel and their families. Deployments are an emotional experience creating feelings of fear, anxiety, happiness, loneliness, and stress. This can have a tremendous impact on the whole family system. As the service members undergo hardships on the battlefield, family members struggle with their challenges at home. Deployment can cause a breakdown in the family system, a lack of natural support and mental health issues for military personnel and their loved ones.
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Deployments can create an emotional rollercoaster for all family members. All family members go through different phases of emotions at various times which can cause a breakdown in the family system. Blair Paley cowrote an article in the Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review about the impact of deployment on military families. The article looked at family systems and ecological viewpoints to understand how deployment can impact the whole families well-being.
Paley’s (2013) study found the following: More than half of all service members are married, and there are nearly two million children in military families. In deployment, families face many challenges, including extended separation, disruption in family routine and potentially compromised parenting related to traumatic expose and subsequent mental health problems. (p. 245)
In a family, if stress is affecting one person it is likely this will affect the whole family. The strain on a parent’s relationship affects the child’s relationship with one, or both parents. If a parent is traumatized during deployment, it is likely this will jeopardize the whole family’s well-being. Deployments can place a significant strain on a marriage. Spouses might have feelings of loneliness, anger, or distrust. Having limited communication with their partner can make the separation even more straining. Each spouse might have different ways of dealing with the separation. After a deployment, spouses might distance themselves due to having to do everything themselves, and the member coming home might feel the need to be close trying to make up for the time they were gone. When the couple is dealing with their relationship, they might not see the distress placed on the children (Paley, Lester, & Mogil, 2013, pp. 246). Furthermore, a functioning family system is important for the well-being of all members and having natural support can eliminate some of the challenges that cause the family system to breakdown.
Military members and their family members who don’t feel socially connected or have a lack of support can have low self-esteem and social identity problems causing an overall effect of their well-being. Natural social support for military members can come from spouses, unit leaders, friends, and neighbors. The outcome of military personnel having this support is better mental health, perceived mission readiness, and satisfaction with military life (Welsh, Olson, Perkins, Travis, & Ormsby, 2015, pp. 70-71). Natural social support for spouses and children can come from schools, community members, or extend family members. If not provided with the quality community and school support, military spouses and children will face continued stress and anxiety which could lead to mental health problems in the future (Russo, & Fallon, 2015, p. 414).
In leaving for deployment, members of the armed forces face many hardships. Spouses must take on extra responsibilities and children must learn to deal with only having one parent at home. They might also have to deal with a parent not coming home. The whole family is forced to make significant sacrifices which can affect their mental health. “It is estimated that 25 percent to 40 percent of returning service members experience symptoms that suggest a need for mental health treatment” (Walsh, 2014, pp. 35). Standard conditions include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, substance abuse, and mild traumatic brain injury. Military members can focus on deployment mentally if they know their families are safe and healthy. A military spouse is just as likely to display higher levels of stress, depression, sleep issues and adjustment disorders (Leroux, Hye-Chung, Dabney, Wells, & Kum, 2016, pp. 1269). Children are separated from one parent and might experience feelings of grief or loss. When a parent returns re-establishing a connection with a child may cause the child to exhibit challenging behaviors. For example, children might display anger toward deployed parent. Confusion as to why the parent is leaving and withdrawal due to the parent being gone for several months. Research has also found maternal mental health might affect the children’s mental health state (Walsh et al., 2014, pp. 36).
In conclusion, before, during and after deployment can have an impact on military families. Dealing with family systems breaking down, lack of natural support and mental health issues can have an influence on the well-being of every family member. We live in a world of freedom, and we owe this freedom to the military. It is our responsibility as citizens to help our enlisted neighbors when they are in need.
Leroux, T. C., Hye-Chung, K., Dabney, A., Wells, R., and Kum, H. (2016). “Military Deployments and Mental Health Utilization Among Spouses of Active Duty Service Members.” Military Medicine, 181(10).
Paley, B., Lester, P., and MogilC. (2013). “Family system and ecological perspectives on the impact of deployment on military families.” Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 16(3) :245-265.
Russo, T. J., and Fallon, M.A. (2015). “Coping with Stress: Supporting the Needs of Military Families ad Their children.” Early childhood education journal, 43(5) :407-416.
Walsh, T.B., Dayton, C.J., Erwin, M.S., Muzik, M., Busuito, A., and Rosenblum, K.L. (2014). “Fathering after Military Deployment: Parenting Challenges and Goals of Fathers of Young children.” Health and Social Work, 39(1):35-44.
Welsh, J., Olson, J., Perkins, D., Travis, W., and Ormsby, L. (2015). “The Role of Natural Support System in the Post-deployment Adjustments of Active Duty Military Personnel.” American Journal of Community Psychology, 56(1/2) :69-78.
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