A research brief by David Murphey for the group Child Trends said military families have many strengths including: at least one parent has a job with a modest salary; older children often assume important family responsibilities; families are generally "rule-followers;" their healthcare care is provided for; and many are resilient in the face of stress.
However, today's volunteer military is demographically very different from that of previous generations. In the Vietnam War era, only 15 percent of active-duty members were parents, and these were typically officers. However, today 44 percent of the U.S. military have children and 14 percent are single parents.
Nevertheless, children in military families experience frequent, multiple deployments of their parents. In addition to the prolonged absence of a parent and/or spouse, deployment means added responsibilities and new adjustments for the family members who remain at home, the study said.
Nearly 1-in-5 service members returning home from deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan reported acute stress, depression, or anxiety, the study said.
All of these factors can create stress for both children and adults, and can negatively affect their health and relationships.
In addition, the deployed parent's return can also be challenging, as he or she has likely been changed by the warzone experience, and must learn to re-integrate into the family.
Many service members return home with injuries that can be seriously and permanently disabling, which can have considerable negative effects on family dynamics, including increasing the risk of impaired relationships, the study said.