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The impact of parental military service on child well-being

APA Citation:

Blamey, H., Phillips, A., Hess, D. C., & Fear, N. T. (2019). The impact of parental military service on child well-being. Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health, 5(S2), 22-69. https://doi.org/10.3138/jmvfh.2019-0014

Abstract Created by REACH:

Many studies have examined the link between parental military-related factors (e.g., deployments, reintegration experiences, relocation, military parent’s rank, role, and branch affiliation) and child well-being (i.e., emotional psychosocial, physiological, and behavioral health). This literature review summarized several of these studies to better understand how military-related factors may impact child well-being. The findings from 36 studies conducted in the United States (n = 31), United Kingdom (n = 3), Canada (n = 1), and Australia (n = 1) suggested that parental deployment, reintegration, and experiences of grief over losing a Service member parent can impact various dimensions of child well-being, including mental health, emotional stability, and school performance.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

International Military

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Child of a service member or veteran


Childhood (birth - 12 yrs)
Adolescence (13 - 17 yrs)


Review of Literature


Blamey, Helen, Phillips, Ava, Hess, Donabelle C., Fear, Nicola T.


The aim of this review is to evaluate the literature on the association between parental military-related factors and child well-being. Methods: We conducted a literature search for research published from 2000–2017 from NATO and Partnership for Peace (PfP) countries in the English language only. Eligible studies were those that included topics of military personnel and children’s well-being; papers that included child maltreatment/abuse were excluded. Search databases included Embase, Medline, PsycINFO, ScienceDirect, Web of Science, Google Scholar, and PubMed. Results: Thirty-six predominantly United States (US)-based studies were included in the review: 27 of cross-sectional study design, 4 longitudinal, and 5 retrospective cohort studies. Discussion: The parental military-specific factors that affect child well-being are cumulative deployment months, frequent relocation, and factors related to relocation such as expanded household responsibility, disrupted daily routines, academic interruption, and disruption to social networks. These factors are associated with military children having higher levels of emotional and behavioural difficulties – such as symptoms of depression – than their civilian counterparts. Limitations of the review include the large proportion of studies with a cross-sectional design, as well as studies with small sample sizes. Indications for future research include looking at children from dual military families and the use of longitudinal study designs.

Publication Type:

REACH Publication
Featured Research

Author Affiliation:

King’s Centre for Military Health Research, and Academic Department of Military Mental Health, King’s College London, HB
King’s Centre for Military Health Research, and Academic Department of Military Mental Health, King’s College London, AP
Department of the Air Force, Geilenkirchen NATO Air Base, DCH
King’s Centre for Military Health Research, and Academic Department of Military Mental Health, King’s College London, NTF


child well-being, deployment, NATO, military families, military stressors, relocation

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

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