A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that children of military personnel may be at risk for social, emotional and behavioral problems, CBS News reported.
Authors Dr. Ben S. Siegel and Dr. Beth Ellen Davis, who serve as members on the Committee On Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health and Section on Uniformed Services claim that about 60 percent of service members have families, and 2.3 million service members have been deployed for ten years, since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"In the past 10 years, more than 2 million children in the U.S. have experienced the emotional and stressful event of being separated from a loved one deployed for active duty," Davis said. "Most children cope and adapt quite well, but all children experience a heightened sense of fear and worry during a parent's deployment. It's important for pediatricians caring for these families to be aware of their family's situation so they can guide them appropriately."
Based on studies the authors, one-in-four children with parents deployed on active-duty have symptoms of depression. Twice as many children with military parents reported trouble sleeping, and one-in-three children experienced excessive worrying.
The health effects appear in young children and even older teens. The study showed that 5 and 17-year-olds were at a higher risk for emotional and behavioral problems than those without parents on active-duty.
Even pre-school aged children experienced symptoms, they were more likely to show signs of anxiety and withdrawal than other kids their age.
These symptoms are linked both to the parent on active-duty and the parent at home. While it is stressful for the child to have a parent who is deployed, it is often stressful for the spouse as well. Having a parent who is stressed about the situation can increase stress in the child.
Deployed parents can also come home with their own problems that can increase stress, such as traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
"By understanding the military family and the stressful experiences of parental wartime deployment, all pediatricians, both active duty and civilian, and other health care providers, can be the 'front line' in caring for U.S. military children and their families," Siegel said. "Pediatricians play a critical role in identifying how well or poorly a child or family responds to a major stressor such as an extended deployment, and can provide the necessary education and support, including referral to a mental health professional when needed."