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Developmental and behavioral implications for military children with deployed parents

Molinda Chartrand, MD
Section Editors
Jan E Drutz, MD
Marilyn Augustyn, MD
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD


With the United States military involved in conflicts around the world, more children in military families experience parental absence [1]. For a military child, wartime deployment can mean prolonged separation from a parent, fear for that parent's safety, and increased uncertainty in daily routine.

This topic will provide an overview of the developmental and behavioral implications of deployment for children of parents in the military.


Approximately 2.7 million United States military service members have experienced at least one deployment to Afghanistan or Iraq since April 2001 [1]. Nearly 2 million children in United States military families have been affected by a service member deployment since the start of military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan [2].

Of the 2.5 million active duty and reserve military members, 36 percent are married with children, 6.6 percent are single parents, and 2.3 percent are dual military families with children [3]. In 2013, approximately 1.9 million United States children had at least one parent in the military; 62 percent had a parent in the active duty component; and 38 percent in the reserve component (National Guard or Reserve). Approximately 37 percent of children in military families are between birth and 5 years of age, 30 percent are aged 6 to 11 years, 25 percent are 12 years to 18, and 7 percent are 19 to 22 years.


Deployment – A deployment is the short term assignment of a military service member to a combat or noncombat zone. A deployment can last from 1 to 18 months, with typical deployments lasting 12 to 15 months [4]. Deployments can be planned or unexpected.


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Apr 29, 2016.
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