STATES CHRONICLE – A new study funded by the Defense Health Program has revealed worrying data regarding child abuse in families where parents are deployed in the U.S. Army.
According to the data provided, the first six months after a parent returns home from deployment present a higher abuse risk for children, a risk that rises even more for children whose parents are deployed more than once. The study’s purpose was evaluating the abuse risk in Army families in order to create relevant support programs to deal with the problem of child maltreatment.
In a recent press release, Karl Schneider, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, explained that even though the rate of child abuse is way lower than what’s experienced by the general population, the study underscores the stress resulting from deployment, which extends to soldiers, family members and close ones.
Previously collected by the Department of Defense’s Family Advocacy Program, the reports of emotional, sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, and neglect were now reviewed by researchers at PolicyLab, the research department at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
They also analyzed TRICARE medical diagnoses of maltreatment of children. The records covered children under two years of age of 112,325 deployed U.S. Army soldiers; data was collected in an extensive study between 2001 and 2007.
According to the current study’s results, the first six months after U.S. Army deployment are critical, causing the child abuse risk to increase even if the parent soldier is deployed only once. However, after the second deployment, researcher found neglect and abuse had doubled in likelihood, but the maltreatment in these situations turned out to be caused by a non-military caregiver.
Lead author Christine Taylor, project manager at PolicyLab, said that results only highlight the extensive nature of the problems caused by deployment stress, affecting the entire family not just the soldier. Deployments should be seen as family experiences and treated accordingly, focusing on the child and parent left behind.
The new report is a follow-up of the Pentagon data released earlier this year, a body of research that showed a worrying increase in child abuse and neglect in military families. According to the Pentagon, the rate rose by nearly 10 percent in 2014 to 7,676 cases.
Christine Taylor said that, in the case of abuse instances occurring during a soldier’s second deployment, the study uncovers the pressure and “stress that plays out in Army families during or after deployment.”
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