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Parental wartime deployment and socioemotional adjustment in early childhood: The critical role of military parents’ perceived threat during deployment

APA Citation:

Hajal, N. J., Aralis, H. J., Kiff, C. J., Wasserman, M. M., Paley, B., Milburn, N. G., ... & Lester, P. (2020). Parental wartime deployment and socioemotional adjustment in early childhood: The critical role of military parents’ perceived threat during deployment. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 33(3), 307-317. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22475

Abstract Created by REACH:

Wartime deployment is often stressful for members of military families, in part, because Service members are in proximity to danger. This exposure to stress may negatively influence emotion socialization (i.e., the process of parents or other adults helping children learn to manage their emotions, such as being sensitive or setting a good example). Data from military families (N = 104) with children ages 3–6 were examined to understand whether Service member fathers’ deployment experiences (e.g., combat experiences, perceived threat) were linked to mother-reported child adjustment (behavioral, social, emotional), beyond what could be attributed to fathers’ mental health (i.e., posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety). Further, emotion socialization was examined as a linking mechanism connecting fathers’ combat experiences to their children’s adjustment. The results suggest that fathers’ perceptions of threat during deployment, not their combat experiences, were important for parenting patterns as well as child adjustment.

Focus:

Deployment
Children
Mental health
Parents

Branch of Service:

Navy
Marine Corps
Army
Air Force
Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty
Guard
Reserve
Veteran

Subject Affiliation:

Child of a service member or veteran
Active duty service member
Guard/Reserve member
Veteran

Population:

Childhood (birth - 12 yrs)
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)

Methodology:

Quantitative Study

Authors:

Hajal, Nastassia J., Aralis, Hilary J., Kiff, Cara J., Wasserman, Melissa M., Paley, Blair, Milburn, Norweeta G., Mogil, Catherine, Lester, Patricia

Abstract:

Infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children have unique developmental needs that render them vulnerable to challenges associated with parental military service. We used a sample of military-connected families with 3–6-year-old children (N = 104) to examine associations among children's socioemotional development and fathers’ trauma-related deployment experiences, including perceived threat during deployment and exposure to combat and the aftermath of battle. Of these potential stressors, only paternal perceived threat during deployment was significantly associated with measures of mother-reported child adjustment. Fathers’ perceived threat during deployment was associated with child behavior problems even after accounting for demographic variables and current paternal symptoms of posttraumatic stress, depression, and anxiety, β = .36, p = .007. The association between fathers’ perceived threat during deployment and child behavior problems was mediated by several family processes related to emotion socialization, including father-reported sensitive parenting, indirect effect (IE) B = 0.106, 95% CI [0.009, 0.236]; parent–child dysfunctional interaction, IE B = 0.119, 95% CI [0.014, 0.252]; and mother-reported family emotional responsiveness, IE B = 0.119, 95% CI [0.011, 0.258]. Implications for future research on the intergenerational transmission of traumatic stress as well as prevention and intervention efforts for military-connected families with young children are discussed.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

John Wiley & Sons

Publication Type:

Article
REACH Publication
Featured Research

Author Affiliation:

Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Jane and Terry , Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, NJH
Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Jane and Terry , Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, HJA
Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Jane and Terry , Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California,CJK
Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Jane and Terry , Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, MMW
Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Jane and Terry , Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, BP
Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Jane and Terry , Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, NGM
Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Jane and Terry , Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, CM
Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Jane and Terry , Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, PL

Keywords:

parental military service, military-connected children, military-connected family, deployment, behavior problems

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

Sponsors:

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Grant Number: R01HD072324

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