Parental Deployment to War Takes Mental Toll on Children

More diagnoses seen in older children within gender groups, and in boys within age groups

WEDNESDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Increased mental health diagnoses are observed in children of U.S. military personnel deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), according to a study published online July 4 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Alyssa J. Mansfield, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues investigated whether deployment of U.S. army personnel in support of OIF and OEF is associated with a risk of mental health diagnosis in their children. Outpatient medical data were collected between 2003 and 2006 from 307,520 children (aged 5 to 17 years), with at least one active-duty army parent. Mental health diagnosis was defined as having at least one mental health-related International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision code for a given outpatient medical visit, and was further classified into 17 disorder categories.

The investigators identified an additional 6,579 mental health diagnoses in children with deployed parents as compared to those with non-deployed parents. After adjusting for children's age, gender, and mental health history, excess mental health diagnoses correlated with parental deployment increased with total months of deployment and were greatest for acute stress reaction/adjustment, depression, and pediatric behavioral disorders. Older children within gender groups and boys within age groups had more diagnoses; however, both genders showed similar patterns within same-category diagnoses.

"A dose-response pattern between deployment of a parent for OIF and OEF and increased mental health diagnoses was observed in military children of all ages," the authors write.

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