Young children's reactions to maternal military wartime deployments

Young children's reactions to maternal military wartime deployments


Name: Janice Agazio

Rank: LTC (ret)


Year: 2016


Young children's reactions to maternal military wartime deployments
Introduction: Separation as a cause for family reorganization has most often been studied in relation to wartime deployments. Most have considered only father separations and the effects most often the non-military spouse and children. Those studies detailing children’s reactions to deployment have been conducted primarily with adolescents and school aged children.
Identification of the problem: Few studies have considered maternal wartime separations for military duty in terms of the separation and reintegration experience with younger children.
Purpose: The purpose of this secondary analysis of data was to discern how military mothers describe the separation and reintegration experience with their younger children during a wartime separation.
Methodology: Using a grounded theory design in the original study, 37 military women with children under 10 years of age who had been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan participated in a 1-1.5 hour interview. For the purposes of this secondary analysis, data were thematically analyzed to identify issues related to the separation and re-integration issues.
Results: Participants represented primarily Army (81%) active duty (91%) women deployed to Iraq (84%). The ages of the children at the time of separation ranged from 3 months- 10 years. Primary themes included: preparation; anticipating emotional reactions; relocation stresses; alternative caregivers; maintaining contact; health related issues; re-bonding after separation; and behavioral/emotional reactions during homecoming and re-integration.
Discussion: Information regarding younger children’s reaction to mother deployments is limited in the literature. Some behaviors identified in older children were evident in younger children’s reactions. Maternal behaviors to address children’s reactions were less available for comparison with prior research indicating the need for further study.
Conclusions: This study increases understanding of younger children’s reactions to mother separation in wartime deployments.
Implications: Participants identified normalizing strategies that will be useful in anticipatory guidance for future conflicts and for use in policy revisions and development.