Child Maltreatment Among Civilian Parents Before, During, and After Deployment in United States Air Force Families

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Abstract

Objective:

To conduct the first population-based study comparing child maltreatment rates perpetrated by civilian parents in military families before, during, and after combat-related deployments.

Method:

The sample included children in United States Air Force families who experienced at least 1 child maltreatment incident perpetrated by their civilian parent and whose active-duty parent experienced at least 1 combat-related deployment between October 1, 2001, and October 31, 2008.

Results:

During the study period, 2,442 children were involved in 2,879 substantiated child maltreatment incidents perpetrated by the civilian parent. Rates of child maltreatment by civilian parents increased 52% during deployments compared with before the active-duty parent's first deployment. The overall postdeployment child maltreatment rate was lower than the predeployment and during-deployment maltreatment rates. The large increase in child maltreatment by the civilian parent during deployment compared with predeployment was largely driven by a 124% increase in child neglect.

Conclusion:

During combat-related deployments, children are at heightened risk of child neglect perpetrated by their civilian parent. These results suggest a need for focused maltreatment prevention/intervention efforts during this time of increased risk of children being neglected by their civilian parent.

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