Impact of the Threat of War on Military Children


Name: Nancy Ryan-Wenger


Organization: The Ohio State University

Performance Site: The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Year Published: 1994

Abstract Status: Final


Active duty and reserve personnel constantly prepare for war, but how prepared are their children? What is it like for children whose parents could be deployed at any moment? This research project describes the impact of the threat of war on children of military families.This was a descriptive, comparative study of children of active duty (n = 18), reserve (n = 25), and civilian (n = 48) families. Criteria were one child per family, age 8-11 years, age-appropriate grade, parental consent, and child assent. Triangulation of data collection methods (interview, self-report questionnaires, projective techniques) was used to compare children from the three groups in 1) perceptions of war, 2) origin of fears related to war, 3) manifest anxiety, 4) coping strategies, and 5) projection of emotional problems in human figure drawings (HFDs). Instruments included a structured interview, the Schoolagers' Coping Strategies Inventory, the Revised Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale, and the HFD Test. Drawings were analyzed for emotional indicators, and summary scores on the instruments were calculated. Groups were compared using ANOVA for continuous data and chi-square for frequency data. A content analysis of the interviews was conducted. No significant differences were found between the groups in total scores for coping, anxiety, or emotional indicators on HFDs, but item analyses showed evidence of important differences in coping strategies and anxiety indicators. Negative comments and fears about war were more evident in military children. Overall, military children are no different from civilian children, regardless of the threat of war. Most military children have developed effective coping strategies for dealing with this stressor. Nurses can use the study's findings to develop proactive, preventive interventions for children at highest risk, anticipate increased emotional problems during periods of political unrest, and provide extra attention to children whose parents are deployed.


Final Report is available on NTRL: