Expert Commentary

Effects of soldiers’ deployment on children’s academic performance and behavioral health

2011 study by the RAND Corporation on the educational and health effects of parents' deployment on their children.

Since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the 2003 start of the Iraq war, hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers have served increasingly long and difficult deployments overseas. Beyond the physical risks troops face, their absence can have significant negative impacts on family members.

At the request of the Army Child, Youth, and School Services (CYSS), in 2011 the RAND Corporation produced a study on the impact of parents’ deployment on their children’s behavior and performance in school, “Effects of Soldiers’ Deployment on Children’s Academic Performance and Behavioral Health.” The report’s researchers looked at more than 44,000 school-age children of Army soldiers residing in North Carolina and Washington between 2002 and 2008, and compared their achievement scores with those of children whose parents had not been deployed.

The report’s findings include:

  • As of 2007, 66% of Washington soldiers and 75% of those in North Carolina were deployed at least once. Overall, more than 20% were deployed at the time of the academic achievement test in June 2007.
  • 23% of soldiers in the North Carolina sample and 10% in the Washington sample have deployed three or more times.
  • There was a “modest, consistent, negative relationship” between cumulative months that parents were deployed and their children’s academic outcomes.
  • Children of soldiers who were deployed 19 months or more since 2001 have modestly lower achievement scores. This finding was consistent for both states and in all academic subjects.
  • While elementary and middle-school students in the study had lower achievement scores with more cumulative months of deployment, high school students may not.

The report includes the results of a large number of interviews with teachers and counselors to identify problem areas for children of military personnel. Difficulties included issues with school attendance and homework completion; parental disengagement during deployment; stress from additional household responsibilities; and the difficulty in transferring credits when moving between school districts.

Tags: children, youth, parenting, veterans

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