Late Breaking News
Effect on Children
A 2010 study published by Cozza and his colleagues in the Journal of Traumatic Stress underscored the impact that combat injuries can have on children. That study examined the impact of combat injury on family functioning in 41 families and found that spouses already reporting high levels of stress from deployment were significantly more likely to report high child distress post-injury. High family disruption post-injury also increased stress on children.
The study concluded that, “early identification and intervention with combat-injured families experiencing distress and disruption may be warranted to support family and child health, regardless of injury severity.”
“In situations where families are less stable, whether that has to do with preexisting or resulting from the injury experience itself, children are going to be at higher risk. So our programs need to be available to support families to develop stability within the family to meet the challenges and to provide support in the parenting process,” Cozza said during the webinar.
Studies are being conducted to develop strategies to help families facing these issues. One is a five-year study of an intervention called Families OverComing Under Stress (FOCUS)-Combat Injured that is designed for severely combat-injured servicemembers and their families, he pointed out. The intervention will be administered at three sites within DoD, with participating families followed for two years.
As stressful as deployment and injury can be, a combat death can be devastating for a family, Cozza said, pointing out that about one-third of military deaths in the last 10 years have been a result of combat and hostile actions.
“Combat death poses a very unique circumstance and one that is unique in comparison to those experienced in the civilian world,” he said. “It is the impact of a sudden, violent and traumatic death and, because of that, we would have greater concern. … We know in the civilian literature [that] those deaths are likely to lead to poorer outcomes in families and children.”
The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress is in the process of conducting the National Military Family Bereavement Study, which is the first scientific study on the impact of a U.S. servicemember’s death on surviving family members. According to the study description, researchers “will study the impact of a service member death on his or her family of origin and their family of procreation. Given the unique nature of military family life, the study will investigate the impact of community support and services on the bereaved and how available resources impact resilience or vulnerability in surviving families.”
“We hope, based on that, we will have information that will support additional policy and treatment recommendations,” Cozza said.
Programs such as the one at Joint Base Lewis-McChord may be part of the answer.
“This was a place where we go to express our feelings on how we would react when our military member gets home,” said one young participant, Colton Dennis. “It’s kind of like therapy for kids and it really helps to get motivated for when he does get home.”
1. Cozza SJ, Guimond JM, McKibben JB, Chun RS, Arata-Maiers TL, Schneider B,Maiers A, Fullerton CS, Ursano RJ. Combat-injured service members and their families: the relationship of child distress and spouse-perceived family distress and disruption. J Trauma Stress. 2010 Feb;23(1):112-5. PubMed PMID: 20146393.