Effects of the Return Home


Children’s anxiety does not stop when parents return home. One study reported that among Army and Marine children, 23 percent showed elevated anxiety levels when their parents were deployed. But 32 percent of children with a recently returned parent exhibited similar symptoms. The children continued to worry about parents’ safety and possible death.[i]

Children’s symptoms reflect parents’ conditions. When parents return, the severity of the parents’ mental health condition is associated with depression in their children. The VA reported 17,538 mental health hospitalizations in 2009, and said in May 2011 that as many as 95 percent of returning veterans may have some form of a post traumatic stress disorder. In addition, the Pentagon estimates that 200,000 troops have suffered traumatic brain injuries – which often cause severe memory loss and mood swings – since 2001.

Distress heightens when parents are injured. When parents returned with combat-related injuries, 68 percent of families reported high distress in children, who must suddenly deal with disrupted schedules, altered living arrangements, and changes to both parents’ behaviors.[ii]

Girls experience the most problems during reintegration. One RAND study found that girls, in particular, worry during reintegration about the possibility of further deployments as well as their parents’ mood changes and relationships.  [iii]

[i] Patricia Lester, MD. Impact of Parental Combat Related Deployment on Children, Spouses and Service Members: Assessment to Guide Intervention. UCLA Military Child Assessment Study (2008).

[ii]Stephen J. Cozza, Jennifer M. Guimond, Jodi B.A. McKibben, Ryo S. Chun, Teresa L. Arata-Maeirs, Brett Schneider, Alan Maeirs, Carol S. Fullerton, and Robert J. Ursano, “Combat-Injured Service Members and Their Families: The Relationship of Child Distress and Spouse-Perceived Family Distress and Disruption.” Journal of Traumatic Stress, 23(2010): 112-115.
[iii] Anita Chandra, DrPH; Sandrulaz Lara-Cinisomo, PhD; Lisa H. Jaycox, PhD; Terri Tanielian, MA; Rachel M. Burns, MPH; Teague Ruder, MA; Bing Han, PhD. “Children on the Homefront: The Experience of Children from Military Families.” Pediatrics, 125 (2010): 16-25