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Impact of Parental Deployment on Internalizing and Externalizing Behavior Problems of Military-Connected Students


Estimations suggest more than 2 million children have experienced a parental deployment since 2002, and 1.2 million of those children are school-aged (i.e. 6 to 18 years). Academically, school-aged children whose parents are deployed perform lower than children whose parents have never been deployed, particularly with increased cumulative months of deployment experienced by military-connected (MC) children. School personnel hypothesize the impact may be due to internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems resulting from parental deployment, which often relate to mental health challenges of the non-deployed parent. Home-based studies suggest deployment impacts internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems, particularly in younger children aged five to 12 years. However, there is a lack of studies examining the impact of deployment on these behavioral outcomes within the school setting and using teacher report. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of parental deployment on internalizing and externalizing behaviors within the home and school setting. The study utilized a mixed analysis of variance (ANOVA) design to examine differences in behavioral and emotional risk, utilizing both parent and teacher report, between two groups. The two groups included military-connected (MC) students currently or recently experiencing deployment (within previous 6 months), and MC students who neither currently nor recently experienced parental deployment. Results suggest a significant main effect for rater on internalizing behavioral problems, with the parents rating the children higher than the teachers; however, no significant main effect of parental deployment status was indicated. No significant main effect of parental deployment status or rater was found for externalizing behavior problems. Further, while there was a significant main effect between parents and teachers on internalizing behaviors, most of the sample fell within the average range on both scales, based upon both teacher and parent report. Implications, limitations and future research are discussed.

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