Journal Issue: Military Children and Families Volume 23 Number 2 Fall 2013
Because most research on military families has focused on children who are old enough to go to school, we know the least about the youngest and perhaps most vulnerable children in these families. Some of what we do know, however, is worrisome—for example, multiple deployments, which many families have experienced during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, may increase the risk that young children will be maltreated.
Where the research on young military children is thin, Joy Osofsky and Lieutenant Colonel Molinda Chartrand extrapolate from theories and research in other contexts—especially attachment theory and research on families who have experienced disasters. They describe the circumstances that are most likely to put young children in military families at risk, and they point to ways that families, communities, the military, and policy makers can help these children overcome such risks and thrive. They also review a number of promising programs to build resilience in young military children.
Deployment, Osofsky and Chartrand write, is particularly stressful for the youngest children, who depend on their parents for nearly everything. Not only does deployment separate young children from one of the central figures in their lives, it can also take a psychological toll on the parent who remains at home, potentially weakening the parenting relationship. Thus one fundamental way to help young military children become resilient is to help their parents cope with the stress of deployment. Parents and caregivers themselves, Osofsky and Chartrand write, can be taught ways to support their young children's resilience during deployment, for example, by keeping routines consistent and predictable and by finding innovative ways to help the child connect with the absent parent. The authors conclude by presenting 10 themes, grounded in research and theory, that can guide policies and programs designed to help young military children.