Soldiers, families suffer in communication

March 18, 2013 at 9:53 PM
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COLUMBIA, Mo., March 18 (UPI) -- Technologies keeping deployed U.S. soldiers in contact with family members can have negative consequences for both soldiers and their families, researchers say.

While cellphones and the Internet allow soldiers at distant postings and their families to communicate instantly, the inherent limitation of some of the technologies can have negative effects, University of Missouri researcher Brain Houston reports.

"Deployed soldiers and their families should be aware that newer methods of communication, especially texting, can have unintended impacts," Houston, a communications professor, said. "The brevity and other limitations of text messages often limit the emotional content of a message.

"The limited emotional cues in text messages or email increases the potential for misunderstandings and hurt feelings," he said. "For example, children may interpret a deployed parent's brief, terse text message negatively, when the nature of the message may have been primarily the result of the medium or the situation."

That can have an impact on the emotions and behaviors of military children, which can then cause a conflict for the soldier between the roles of warrior and parent.

"Bad news from home can distract a soldier from their duties and double their stress load," Houston said. "A soldier can end up dealing with both the strain of warfare and concerns about a distant child."

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