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Parental perceptions of social and emotional well-being of young children from Australian military families

APA Citation:

Rogers, M., Johnson, A., Coffey, Y., Fielding, J., Harrington, I., & Bhullar, N. (2023). Parental perceptions of social and emotional well-being of young children from Australian military families. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 31(6), 1090-1102. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajr.13033

Abstract Created by REACH:

Using a mixed-method design, this study examined the experiences of civilian mothers in Australian Defense Force (ADF) families as they supported their children through periods of military-related stress (e.g., relocation, deployment). In 2020, 41 mothers of young children completed surveys, including quantitative ratings and open-ended questions, on their child’s social and emotional well-being, as well as on their own understanding of and confidence in supporting their child. Mothers also indicated the types of resources they use to support their children. Overall, although most indicators of children’s well-being were rated frequently, mothers desired more support to help their children cope with military-related stressors.



Branch of Service:

International Military

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Child of a service member or veteran
Spouse of service member or veteran
Military families


Childhood (birth - 12 yrs)
School age (6 - 12 yrs)
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Rogers, Marg, Johnson, Amy, Coffey, Yumiko, Fielding, Jill, Harrington, Ingrid, Bhullar, Navjot


Introduction Many Australian Defence Force (ADF) and Veteran families are affected by the stressors of Defence family life, including frequent and prolonged parental deployments, and frequent relocations. Objective To address a gap in information about Defence and Veteran (hereafter Defence) parents' knowledge, confidence and resources to support their young children's well-being and build their resilience. Design This study used a mixed methods design to explore Defence parent's perceptions of their young children's (aged 2–8 years) social and emotional well-being and understanding of their children's responses to unique stressors as well as their confidence in providing support. Data from 41 parents were available. Findings Overall, parents reported positive well-being evaluation of their children. However, just over a third of parents also reported that their children rarely cope well on two indicators combined (adapting to new situations and sharing negative emotions with others). Significantly, more than half of the parents (61%) were only partially confident in their ability to assist their children to cope with unique stressors in military families. Qualitative data provided further insights into children's struggle with relocations and parental absence and the challenges parents face in supporting them. Parents reported having limited access to effective age- and culturally appropriate resources to support their young children. Discussion In a first-of-its kind study, we found that Australian Defence parents reported their young children were coping on most of the key well-being indicators. However, awareness of currently available supports for children remains a barrier as well as access to contextualised, age- and culturally appropriate resources are lacking. Conclusion There is a need for access to free, quality, online, research-based Australian resources to support young children from Defence families, especially for those living in regional and rural locations and are less likely to have access to mental health and other specialist supports.

Publication Type:

REACH Publication


children, emotional well-being, military families, parenting, resources, social well-being

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  December 2023

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