• July 2007
  • Vol. 8, No. 6

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Deployment Linked to Increased Child Maltreatment

A study that compared rates of child maltreatment over time in military and nonmilitary families in Texas found that maltreatment rates in military families increased in relation to the deployment of soldiers. Analyzing data on approximately 150,000 children from 2000 to 2003, researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Public Health found that the child maltreatment rates increased 30 percent for every 1 percent increase in the number of active-duty personnel who departed or returned from operational deployment.

Early in the study period, which corresponded to the time before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, military families had a lower rate of child maltreatment than nonmilitary families in this study group. However, by the latter part of 2002, when many Texas service personnel were assigned to operational deployments, the rate in military families began to rise. Nonmilitary parents in those families (i.e., military spouses) comprised the largest group of perpetrators and accounted for the largest increase in perpetrators during this time, suggesting that deployment causes significant stress for families left behind and those adjusting to the return of their soldiers. It may also cause increases in maltreatment rates among families in which soldiers are at risk of being deployed.

Interventions suggested by the study's authors include providing additional support and education for families. Increased monitoring during times of deployment when stress is high may also be appropriate.

"Effects of Deployment on the Occurrence of Child Maltreatment in Military and Nonmilitary Families," by E. Danielle Rentz, Stephen W. Marshall, Dana Loomis, Carri Casteel, Sandra L. Martin, and Deborah A. Gibbs, was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 165(10). It is available for purchase online:

http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/short/kwm008v1

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