The “Military Family Syndrome” Revisited: “By the Numbers”

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Because concerns have been raised about high levels of psychopathology in military children, the authors used standardized psychopathology rating scales to survey 213 six to twelve-year-old children of military parents and their parents. Results from children's symptom self-reports, as well as from teachers' ratings of children, indicated that children's symptom levels were at levels consistent with national norms. In contrast, parents' (especially mothers') ratings of children were significantly higher than national norms, as were parents' ratings of their own symptoms. Also, parents' own symptom reports showed somewhat stronger relationships with life stressors presumably affecting the child than did the children's and teachers' reports. Results suggest that parents' reports of children's symptoms may be mediated by the effects of military life stressors on the parents, but these stressors do not necessarily result in higher symptoms in the children. Overall results do not support the notion that levels of psychopathology are greatly increased in children of military parents. Further studies of military families should address the effects of rank and socioeconomic status, housing, and the current impact of life stressors on the parents as well as the children in order to avoid drawing erroneous conclusions about parts or all of the military community.

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