Researchers find that children of deployed soldiers struggle

Tacoma News TribuneJuly 22, 2011 

An adolescent whose parent is sent on military deployments is more likely to have suicidal thoughts and feel depressed than the child of civilians, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Washington School of Public Health.

The report drew on a 2008 mental health survey distributed in Washington schools. It's believed to be one of the broadest studies yet directly comparing military teens with the children of civilians since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began a decade ago.

Its lead author hopes it will lead to increased awareness about stresses on military children and motivate new efforts to help teens.

"It's really time to focus on the children that are left behind," said Sarah Reed, the lead author of the report, which was published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health.

More than 10,600 eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students filled out the 2008 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey. The state distributes the survey every two years.

The one in 2008 was the first to ask questions about whether a child's parent had deployed in the previous six years. At the time, Washington's population included more than 60,000 active-duty service members, the sixth most in the country.

Researchers found that boys are most sensitive to the stress of a parent's deployment.

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