Although many children cope well during a parent's military deployment, much research suggests that parent separation due to deployment makes children susceptible to negative emotional and behavioral outcomes (Stevenson, Fabricius, Braver, & Cookston, 2018; Williamson, Stevelink, Da Silva, & Fear, 2018). However, our understanding of the unique negative impacts as well as the factors that promote coping are limited due to methodological limitations. For example, the lack of appropriate parent-separated comparison groups limits the generalizability of findings to other types of family separation. Furthermore, studies often rely on a single informant, typically the maternal caregiver, whose report may be influenced by their own emotional distress during spousal separation or limited in scope in comparison to multiple informants or child's self-report. Finally, studies may rely on a single (and subjective) measure of functioning, which is susceptible to bias, variability in responding, and may not assess all aspects of emotional and behavioral functioning. This two-part study addresses several gaps in the current body of research by utilizing a multi-modal, multi-informant approach to analyze stress and resiliency in the military family during parent deployment in comparison to other forms of parental separation. Study I examines how international deployment, primarily to areas of active military conflict, affects child resilience and emotional and behavioral outcomes in comparison to families currently undergoing marital separation or divorce. Study I also examines parent stress and relationship adjustment as a mechanism of this relationship. Study II further examines the impact of separation by comparing the military deployed group to a civilian comparison sample where a parent is working out of town for an extended period of time (at least 30 days), thereby investigating the unique effects of military deployment on child functioning. Contrary to hypotheses, outcomes from these investigations suggest that children of civilian divorced families experience greater anxiety following parent separation compared to children of military deployed parents. Additionally, parent perceived stress mediated the relationship between military deployed and civilian divorced family groups and child overall anxiety. On the other hand, caregivers in military deployed families have greater parent relationship adjustment than civilian divorced and civilian deployed families. These findings suggest that the permanent nature of divorce is particularly detrimental to child emotional adjustment. However, parent marital adjustment may be a protective factor for family adjustment in military families during deployment.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Sciences
Psychology; Clinical Psychology
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Campus-only Access)
Morrison, Krystal, "Family and Child Functioning During Parental Separation: A Two-Part Study" (2021). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 735.