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

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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.


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.


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.


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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