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Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
Mental Health and Children in Military Families: A Scoping Review of Issues and Needs
Author Affiliations
  • Queen's University
Article Information
Mental Health / Military Rehabilitation / Pediatric Evaluation and Intervention / Basic Research
Research Platform   |   August 01, 2016
Mental Health and Children in Military Families: A Scoping Review of Issues and Needs
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011505088. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.70S1-RP301A
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011505088. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.70S1-RP301A
Abstract

Date Presented 4/9/2016

A scoping review was used to determine how research literature describes mental health issues and needs among children growing up in military families. The 220 studies included identified particular mental health vulnerabilities that are important for occupational therapists to note.

Primary Author and Speaker: Heidi Cramm

Contributing Authors: Alice Aiken, Mary Ann McColl

RESEARCH QUESTION: “What are the mental health issues and needs associated with children growing up in military families?”
BACKGROUND: The negative impacts of parental deployment on children’s mental health such as increased anxiety, depression, risk of alcohol and drug use, and delinquency have been studied, along with strategies to improve resiliency and minimize risk. The research has also more recently considered the impacts on children when serving military members return home with combat-related injuries or postcombat health consequences such as posttraumatic stress disorder.
METHOD: A scoping review was selected as the optimal method to synthesize the breadth and depth of knowledge on the topic. Using Arksey and O’Malley’s structured approach, CINAHL, Medline, PsycINFO, Embase, and ERIC were searched to answer the research question “What are the mental health issues and needs associated with children growing up in military families?” An analytic data extraction guide was developed, tested, and refined to ensure interrater reliability on data extraction. Framework analysis was used to develop themes from the extracted data.
RESULTS: Two hundred twenty peer-reviewed publications and government reports met the inclusion criteria for the study. Preliminary analysis suggests that the impact of parental deployment on the mental health of children is increasingly recognized. Strategies to develop resilience within military families are emphasized, and numerous local initiatives have emerged in an effort to tackle these complex issues. There appear to be mental health issues experienced among military children that can affect social, academic, and behavioral domains.
DISCUSSION: Within the military, at different levels of government and across broader society, there has been increasing attention to the impact of military life on families and children. There have been significant changes in the conditions of growing up in a military family over the past several decades, involving heightened involvement in combat and an increased tempo of deployment cycles, which can be disruptive and stressful to children growing up in military families.
IMPACT: Occupational therapists are often the first health care practitioner dealing with children who are struggling at schools. The particular health vulnerabilities experienced within this population are important for therapists to recognize and understand to be effective in their work.