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Supporting Children During Deployment in Military Families

Supporting Children During Deployment in Military Families

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Published by: The Rat on Dec 22, 2011
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Children in Military Families
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Supporting Children During Deployment in Military Families:An Attachment Theory PerspectiveJane SlomskiSSS 804: Social Work With ChildrenNovember 23, 2009
 
Children in Military Families
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 Introduction
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the lives of U.S. servicemembers and their families changed dramatically. Thousands were deployed to Iraq andAfghanistan as the United States, along with its allies, waged the Global War on Terror(GWOT) (Doyle & Petersen, 2005). Eight years later, Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) andOperation Enduring Freedom (OEF) have become part of the most sustained wartimeeffort on the part of the U.S. military since the Vietnam War (Doyle & Petersen, 2005).Due to the extended nature of the mission, some U.S. service members, particularlymembers of the Army, have served as many as four tours of duty in these volatile areas of the world.The face of the U.S. military is changing. Today, sixty percent of U.S. troops havefamily responsibilities. This was not always the case. Historically, the military was madeup of single men, so there was little to no need to be concerned about families or children(Drummet, Coleman, & Cable, 2003). With the transition to an all volunteer military, thischanged but was not immediately accompanied by a change in military policysurrounding family life. For the most part, families were expected to adapt to militarynorms and to the demands of the military lifestyle. In recent times, these norms anddemands have been met with increasing intolerance and dissatisfaction (Drummet,Coleman, & Cable, 2003), necessitating a reevaluation of military policies, procedures,and services to make the military more appealing and to maintain an adequate nationaldefense.Repeated deployments and exposure to trauma have been taxing for our troopsand their families. The effects of pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment
 
Children in Military Families
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stressors on service members and their families is well documented and should beunderstood by helping professionals who work with children who may be affected by thedeployment of a close friend or family member (Murray, 2002).Children and caregivers in military families commonly report problematicsymptoms due to experiences of stress, anxiety, separation from family members, loss,and grief. As a theory that directly addresses these issues, attachment theory (Bowlby,
1969) which focuses on the importance of children’s attachment to caregivers for 
psychosocial well-being, is uniquely suited to aid the mental health professional inunderstanding the etiology of these symptoms. Further, interventions informed byattachment theory may be helpful in treating children who present with these issues in asocial work setting.
Stressors in Military Families and the Effects on Caregivers
 Military families are a unique population. In addition to the day-to-day stressorsthat affect all families, military families contend with specific stressors that are unique tothe military lifestyle including repeated relocations, frequent separation, deployment of service members-sometimes to dangerous locations, reorganization of family life, andrisk of service member injury or death (Burrell, Adams, Durand, & Castro, 2006;Drummet, Coleman, & Cable, 2003). Not surprisingly, fear for soldier safety is the mostcommonly reported stressor of spouses in the military, particularly when the servicemember is deployed to a combat zone (Cozza, Chun, & Polo, 2005).It is logical to begin any discussion of the psychosocial well=being of childrenwith a discussion of the psychosocial well-being of the adults who care for them. Ryan-Wenger (2002) notes that children whose parents are deployed generally exhibit sub-

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