Aug 20, 2007
An Army-funded study, printed in the August issue of Journal of the American Medical Association, shows a considerable increase in child neglect and abuse in military families when one of the parents is deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan. The study covered a 40-month period, from September 11, 2001 through December 2004.
It found that when a soldier is in a combat war zone, the stress level of the parent who stays behind, usually the wife, becomes much greater, sometimes resulting in maltreatment or neglect of the children. The rate of neglect – when a kid is left alone or unsupervised, or their basic needs for food and cleanliness are not adequately met – was almost four times greater during times of deployment. The rate of physical abuse was almost twice as high.
Some Army wives who were told about the study were not surprised. It brings to mind that several times during these wars, when generals have called for meetings at Army bases to inform families of an extended deployment or to prepare them to expect another round of deployment, the general’s voice was sometimes drowned out by outraged moms and older children who let their anger be known.
The effects of these terrible wars will go well into the next generation; above all, most acutely for the children of Iraq. But it should come as no surprise that the war goes not only through U.S. soldiers, but also through their families.