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When a Parent Goes to War: Effects of Parental Deployment on Very Young Children and Implications for Intervention

Post-deployment programs that address parenting would be helpful, especially for families with children from birth through age 5, as this age group is particularly vulnerable to changes in attachment patterns.

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  1. To review of what is known about the effects of the military deployment cycle on young children, including attachment patterns, intense emotions and behavioral changes and suggest an ecological approach for supporting military families with infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Design—Descriptive Literature Review



  1. Deployment may have negative effects on children between the ages of 0 to 5 years in military families.
  2. Deployment could potentially create a developmental crisis and could impact attachment patterns, resulting in intense emotions or behavior changes.
  3. An enormous number of young children in military families are dealing with the effects of deployment and post-deployment adjustment. In response, major resources should be directed at services that bolster the well-being of children and parents in military families.
  4. Program elements that address service-member parents’ ability to reintegrate upon returning from deployment may be especially helpful to children of all ages and young children in particular. These needs are even more urgent when a parent returns from war with mental health concerns that may complicate his or her efforts to cope with the simultaneous demands of recovery, reintegration, and parenting.
  5. There is a need for development and adaptation of programs that are ecologically valid, relevant to the military culture and community-informed. Such approaches may reduce long-standing issues regarding stigma, fragmentation of services, and impediments to outreach that target military families.