Deployment-Related Needs of Children of Army Reserve Soldiers

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Margaret C. Wilmoth, PhD
School of Nursing, LEwis School of Nursing & Health Professions, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, USA
Alicia Gill Rossiter, DNP
College of Nursing, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA
A. Suzanne Boyd, PhD
School of Social Work, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC, USA


The spouse of a deployed Army Reservist said that her 5 year old was the only child in his kindergarten class whose daddy was in the military. He would sit in a corner and cry during school yet refuse to talk to his daddy on Skype. Concerned for her child’s health she reached out to the community for support and encountered many barriers. Not only did she have difficulty finding a child therapist to help her son, finding one with experience caring for the unique physical and psychological healthcare needs of military children was nonexistent. The school, while willing to help, lacked the knowledge and expertise to fully comprehend the impact of parental military service on children. Furthermore, the family did not live near an active duty military post, however even if they did, her spouse’s reservist status would significantly limit services available to her child.

This is just one story from thousands of stories on the effect of a parent’s deployment on Army Reserve children (ARC). Military children sacrifice when a parent volunteers to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States and face many of the same stressors as their Army Reserve (AR) parent—essentially military children serve too. Little is known about the impact of deployment on children of Army Reserve Soldiers. This project identifies gaps in the literature regarding deployment concerns of AR children and provides the first ever description of this population.


Systematic review of the literature on the physical and mental health needs of children of deployed Reserve Component (RC) Soldiers. Descriptive analysis of AR Child and Youth Services (CYS) Programmatic Needs Surveys utilized a convenience sample of parents attending a pre-deployment Yellow Ribbon Program.


The systematic review of the literature is ongoing, but of the 10 studies reviewed to date, RC children comprised approximately 10% of the total sample and none had a sample limited to AR children. A convenience sample of 6,000 parents of children of AR Soldiers who completed the CYS Programmatic Needs Survey, with a majority of children in the age range of (4-16), noted that the greatest need of their child are school support services that include school transition, individual education plans, 504 accommodations, decline in grades due to deployment, and behavior concerns related to deployment. In addition, finding affordable and quality childcare within their local communities can be very challenging. This challenge is compounded if the child requires specialized childcare due to medical or behavior health requirements.


While military children as a whole are an understudied group, even less research is available regarding Army Reserve children specifically. Their needs differ from those of their active duty peers because of their geographic distribution, often making them the only military child in their school, church and other community organizations. Knowledge regarding these unique needs is critical to meeting the educational needs as well as the physical and psychological healthcare needs of this underserved population.

Army Reserve Component children face challenges that differ in many ways from their Active Component counterparts, such as reduced access to military-sensitive psychological support services, military-sensitive school support and peer group support for both parent and child/adolescent. Given the paucity of data on this population, no definitive conclusions can be drawn about the impact of deployment on their psychosocial development. More funding to support research in this population is essential.