More Research Needed into the Experiences of Children in Military Families, says Worcester Psychologist

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In the wake of Remembrance Day and the commemorations of the centenary of WWI, a leading psychologist has called for more research into the experience of children growing up in military families.

Children whose parents serve in the armed forces contend with a wide range of challenges, including regular relocations and school moves, coping with having a parent away for extended periods, and sometimes the effects of the loss or injury of a parent during service.

A report from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Children's Fund estimated in 2009 that there were around 175,000 children with parents in the Armed forces.

Dr Gabriela Misca, at the University of Worcester, said: “Children and adolescents of military parents are a diverse population around the globe, however, compared to the general population of children and young people, they face a range of unique stressors due to their particular family circumstance; these include parental separation during deployment, additional stress of the left-at home parent and family, deployed parent injury and death, and reintegration stress, including health issues and war-related trauma of the returning parent. Such stressors can bring wide-ranging challenges to the adjustment and wellbeing of military children.”

Dr Misca said there had been heightened interest in recent times about the wellbeing of military personnel and veterans, and the need to support their transition and resettlement into civilian life. However, she said there was a distinctive gap in UK research about the impact of this transition on the children of those military personnel.

“There is very limited research and evidence exploring the experiences of military families within the UK, and even though there seem to be some emerging attention paid to the issues of military children’s wellbeing, these are drawing on research from America.”

She added: “There are some inherent barriers in attempting to understand the circumstances and experience of this group of children and young people. Among these are the lack of centrally held UK statistics and the absence of an agreed definition of the ‘service child’.”

In the run up to Remembrance Day, Dr Misca, a Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Researcher in the National Centre for the Study and Prevention of Violence and Abuse, delivered a paper, titled ‘Parenting under fire’, to the British Psychological Society Conference on ‘The Psychological Wellbeing of the Military in Transition’.

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