Families experience multiple stressors as a result of military service. The purpose of this study was to investigate the associations among service member deployment experiences, family and military factors, and children's mental health using baseline data from the Millennium Cohort Family Study, a study designed to evaluate the health and mental health effects of military service on families, including children.
This study examined administrative data on deployment status (combat, noncombat, and no deployments), as well as service member– and spouse-reported data on deployment experiences and family functioning in relation to the mental health of children in the family who were aged 9 to 17 years.
Most children were not reported to have mental health, emotional, or behavioral difficulties regardless of parental deployment status. For an important minority of children, however, parental deployments with combat, compared with those with no deployment, were associated with a parental report of attention-deficit disorder/attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression as diagnosed by a clinical provider, after accounting for demographics, psychosocial context, and military factors. Children's odds of a parental report of depression were significantly higher in both the combat and the noncombat deployment groups than in the no deployment group.
These findings extend our understanding of the association between parental deployments and children's mental health, with implications for services and training mental health providers serving military families.