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A Meta-Analytic Review of Internalizing, Externalizing, and Academic Adjustment Among Children of Deployed Military Service Members. The Authors conducted their research to study the effects of Military deployment upon the children that the service members left behind. Although their research emphasized those Military personnel deployed during hostile operation such as Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Card, et al., 2011, p. 508) , the affects upon children (if any) could also occur during routine deployments such as the one-year (tour) deployment many soldiers have to endure to unaccompanied (without family members) to areas such as to Japan, Korea, or Turkey. It was the Authors hypothesis that these Military deployments are associated with psychological (internalizing or externalizing) and academic adjustments for those children left behind and that Military deployment would either have a positive, negative, or no average impact on their children (Card, et al., 2011, p. 509). The dynamics of the Military household is just as the average civilian household but whether or not the Military child would be adversely affected varies with each child. For instance, there are those children who would blossom in the face of having more household responsibilities due to the absence of one parental figure but, there is also the child who would withdraw or rebel upon having more responsibility thrashed upon them (Card, et al., 2011, p. 509). Then, there's the possibility that the child would have no reaction to the deployment of one parental figure, especially if that parental figure isn't a major figure in the child's daily activities.
The Authors take a look at multiple studies in order to refute or quantify the belief that Military children are adversely affected by continue Military deployments of one or both parental figures in comparison to nondeployed Military families and/or Civilian families. They point out that the added stressors that children of Service members have to contend (worrying about the safety of that parental figure, more responsibility, or removal of one parental figure) have a greater affect upon these children either psychologically or academically in comparison to other households (Card, et al., 2011, p. 509).
The Authors conducted a meta-analytic review of 159 reports from which they selected 16 that consisted of 19,172 participants to include within their review. First, the mean age of the children was coded and categorized into three developmental periods; early childhood (under 5.5 years), middle childhood (5.5 to 12 years), and adolescence (12 to 18 years). Second, they recorded the informant used to measure the child's adjustment. Informants consisted of Child reports - which gave the child's own view of functioning; Teacher reports - which gave an adult's perspective that is able to compare the child's functioning to others; Parent reports - both the nondeployed parent's perspective and the deployed parent's perspective; and, Standardized test - to measure the child's adjustment. Third, they coded the study design used to evaluate the association of deployment with child adjustment. This was accomplished by either contrasting children of deployed parents with children of civilians either directly with a control group of children or, indirectly by comparing with normative data; contrasting children of deployed parents with children of nondeployed service members; longitudinal comparisons of the children prior to their parents deployment and the same children during their parents deployment (Card, et al., 2011, p. 511). The Authors took the data from the 16 studies and assessed whether or not there was a pattern of psychological (internal or external) or academic maladjustments existed amongst the children of deployed Service members in relationship to their civilian counterparts or those of nondeployed Service members. The majority of the samples (14 of the 16) were from military based schools, family support groups, military housing, or the Service member personnel records (Card, et al., 2011, p. 512). Studies included the Child Behavioral Checklist (CBCL), the Strengthened Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), the Behavior Assessment System for Children-2nd ed. (BASC-2), the California Test of Personality (CPT), the Pediatric Symptoms Checklist (PSC), and the Child Health Inventory (CHI) (Card, et al., 2011, p. 512 & 514).
The research showed that there was a small amount of overall maladjustments for children of deployed Service members regarding either internalizing, externalizing or having academic problems in comparison to the children of nondeployed Service members or civilians however, the findings were so small that they were negligible (Card, et al., 2011, p. 514). Some studies found that there were some internalizing problems with children over the age of three and some studies which contradicted this finding indicating that there were no internalizing issues (Card, et al., 2011, p. 516). Unsurprisingly, nondeployed parents indicated a higher association of children internalizing problems than those reported by Teachers, Civilians, or the deployed Service Member. This may be in part due to the extended amount of time a nondeployed parent spends with the child or, the nondeployed parent projecting his/her own feeling onto the child.
Likewise, there's a mixed review of children showing externalizing behaviors when they have a parent in deployment. Studies indicate that children between the ages of three and five years who have deployed Mothers act out more than children of nondeployed parents or of those with deployed Fathers; however, again, the findings were so small that they were negligible (Card, et al., 2011, p. 516). Standardized testing to measure academic adjustments also indicated a small amount of maladjustment just as internalizing and externalizing behaviors but again, it was so small that it was considered "trivial in magnitude" (Card, et al., 2011, p. 517). What was unsurprising throughout the research was that the nondeployed parent (whether male or female) was the greatest informant (reported seeing most of the reported problems) with the child. A factor to consider for the higher levels of nondeployed Parental reports versus Child, Teacher, or Standardized reports include the increase pressures the nondeployed Parent experiences by having to run the household without the spousal support (emotional, child rearing, household maintenance, chores, etc.) of the deployed Service member. What was surprising, was the lack of over-whelming supporting documentation to substantiate the premise that children of deployed Service members actually experience more psychological and academic problems than the children who have nondeployed or civilian parents at home. One would assume erroneously that the children of deployed Service members have added psychological deficits such as worrying whether or not the parent would return or the loss of personal time with that parent that it would greatly affect them both psychologically and academically. Surprisingly, children under five and a half years of age didn't experience any significant maladjustments to the absence of a parent however, the study doesn't account for the time that the absentee parent spent in the home prior to deployment or how much time that parent actually spent with the child except, when the absentee parent was the Mother (Card, et al., 2011, p. 516).
This research could be a useful tool in easing the mind of deploying Service members that contrary to popular belief, statistically, children do not suffer from psychological or academic problems simply because of their deployment. However, increased studies could be done on those who show no major symptoms to ascertain what factors in their lives mitigated the psychological or academic harm from occurring and employ it into family support groups, predeployment briefings, exercises or counseling. Increased studies could also be done to ascertain how the coping techniques of Military children compare to those raised by Civilian personnel and whether having a conventional household where one or both parents goes off to work but always come home at the end of the duty day affect the child as those who see one parent going off in the morning for military duty but his/her end-of-duty day is inconsistent (duty day ends when he/she is released and can at times extend into days). Is it these inconsistencies in the child's life that increase his/her resolve to cope with the absence of one or both parents? Does the child who witness multiple deployments have a greater resiliency or, does the Military parent with his/her military responsibilities shoulder less of the child rearing responsibilities and thus when he/she departs on assignment (either operationally or combat) the child has little or no psychological adjustments to make because this is the norm to which he/she is accustomed? What is the affect on the Military child if the deploying parent is the sole parent? What additional stressors would this place on the child since he/she would then have to be placed with a temporary care giver (family member, grandparents, extended home care provider or friend) for an extended period of time which may result in the child being up rooted from the life/community to which he/she is accustomed (relocation to another school or State)? Does the civilian child go through such changes and how does the military child cope with such drastic changes without it affecting him/her either psychologically or academically. These are just a few questions that I would like to see future research conducted upon.