This report is a summary of findings of the research conducted by Military Family Research Institute and the DOD Quality of Life Office about the issue of adaptation amongst adolescents in military families when a parent is deployed.
The aim of research was to find new ways of dealing with the problems adolescents faced because of parent’s deployment – basically, it was done to investigate and probe their feelings about the issue, so that military and civilian program professionals could be more intentional and directed regarding developing support programs for young people (Angela & Jay, 2005, p.12).
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Parental deployment can have several negative outcomes for adolescents. These include depression or negative behavioral adjustment, poor academic performance, and increased irritability and impulsiveness (cited in Angela & Jay, 2005).
The report provided by the authors is detailed and descriptive in nature. It offers a helpful set of conclusions which can be used by professionals, family members, the parent at home, and society in general, to make them understand the impact of deployment of a parent from a child’s perspective. To emphasize the importance of this research, the authors Angela J. Huebner and Jay A. Mancini, wrote the following:
Because there are just a few systematic studies of adolescents in military families, the present study marks what we hope will be the beginning of an important line of inquiry. The findings presented in this report should confirm observations made by professionals who work with military adolescents and provide a context for exploring new ways to support adolescents who have a deployed parent.
Adolescents between the age group of 12-18 years were chosen from camps sponsored by National Military Family Association. This was done to simplify the process of locating and choosing children with a deployed parent. NMFA camps in Washington, Hawaii, Texas, and Georgia were the ones which participated in this study. The methods used during the research were, first, evaluated and approved by the Institutional Review Board at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
In all, there were 107 adolescents ranging from 12-18 years of age. These participants were then divided into 14 focus groups comprising of 8-10 participants each. The questions asked during the 90 min sessions were focused on determining adolescents’ experience with the deployment. The answers which they got were audio-taped and transcribed.
It is important to know some key questions which were asked to the participants. Also given below is one answer picked randomly.
1. What is the worst thing about having a parent deployed? “The worst time is when the phone rings because you don’t know who is calling. They could be calling, telling you that he got shot or something.”
2. Do you see changes in your at-home parent when the other is deployed? “I’m like always worried about my mom and stuff because, again, she’s always dashing everywhere …she’s always so freaking worn out.”
3. What is it like when that parent returns? “Well when my dad left, everything’s going one way when he come back, and he’s starting off right where he left so…There’s just a big clash and that starts a lot of problems…Like he forgets that he’s been gone for like a year or six months. So he still thinks we’re a lot younger and while he was gone we matured a lot over the year. And he’s still trying to treat us the way we were treated a year ago.”
Support to adolescents can come from formal or informal sources. The questions asked in this regards was to determine the real effects both such approaches could have individually.
4. Who do you go to when you are stressed?
For informal support:
“At first when my dad first got deployed, there was a lot of support as in like people calling, people giving us, you know, food and stuff. But then as time went one, it just kind of died down and nobody really cared that he was deployed.”
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