Effects of separation/deployment on family functioning and parental stress

Effects of separation/deployment on family functioning and parental stress


Name: Janice Agazio

Rank: LTC (Ret)

Presenter/Poster: Accepted - no presentation due to COVID19 response

Year: 2020


The purpose of this study was to describe the experience of deployment for children ages 4-10 years of age using a mixed methods qualitative descriptive design. Multiple studies consider effects of deployment on older school age and adolescent children, but less considering effects upon younger children. Most studies include parental assessment, with less known regarding the child’s thoughts and feelings regarding separation. Other reports rely on developmental theory to postulate effects of military separations. Parents completed demographics, FACES IV, and a parental stress scale followed by an interview to describe the child’s reaction to separation. Children participated in a draw-and-tell conversation and photo elicitation interview regarding perceptions of the separation. Thematic and narrative analysis were used for analysis of interview data with comparison between parental and child participants. Descriptive statistics analyzed family stress and functioning. Fifty-seven children from 38 families, aged 4-10 who experienced a separation or deployment within the past 2 years participated in the draw and tell/photo elicitation interview. Twenty-four military members and thirty-four spouses participated in the interviews/instrument completion. Interview data revealed a turbulent experience for families resulting from frequent and repeated separations. Parents actively employed strategies garnered from military-provided materials and informal interaction with other military parents.

This presentation includes findings from the family functioning and stress instruments to compare themes from parental interviews. Those with generally lower stress and higher functioning report themes of maintaining communication, cohesiveness, and positive outlook. Resilience and coping were hallmarks with strong reliance on the at-home parent. Those with higher stress and lower functioning indicted intervention points for fostering family and individual coping. Repeated and lengthy separations were particular stressors within the families. Relationships with the deployed/separated parent depended upon maintaining frequent contact, adequate preparation, and continuation of usual activities in familiar environments. The findings provided new insights as to the strategies military families use to maintain stability during deployment and will be useful in providing anticipatory guidance and intervention planning.