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March 2016Vol. 17, No. 1Maltreatment During Deployment in Military Families

A summary of recent research prepared by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges shows that, while substantiated cases of child maltreatment occur less frequently in military families than in civilian families, the highest incidence of maltreatment occurs during periods of operational deployment.

Key findings include the following:

  • Child neglect rates increased among Army soldiers during 1991 and again from 2000 to 2004—two periods of lengthy deployments.
  • In families with one substantiated child maltreatment report, the rate of child maltreatment was 42 percent greater during periods of deployment versus nondeployment.
  • Rates of child maltreatment by civilian female spouses were three times higher during periods of deployment, with child neglect rates (85.1 percent) more substantial by far than reports of physical (9.3 percent) and/or emotional (1.9 percent) abuse.
  • Thirteen percent of child maltreatment offenders used alcohol or illicit drugs at the time of the abuse, and the odds of substance abuse nearly tripled in incidents where there was co-occurring spousal abuse.
  • Children were most likely to be removed from their home in cases not involving substance or spousal abuse (13.6 percent), whereas offenders were likely to be removed from the home when the maltreatment incident involved concurrent substance and spousal abuse (49.7 percent).
  • Support services are needed for military families returning from deployment.

The research summary is available at