Military life takes toll on children, families

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Approximately 1.2 million children live in U.S. military families. Although most children experience moving at least once during childhood, the typical military family moves every two to three years. There are currently 222 bases in the United States alone, along with 737 U.S. military bases located overseas in 63 different countries. There is no telling where a soldiers family may be stationed next.

A “military brat” is the term used for a person whose parent or parents have served full-time in the armed forces during the person’s childhood. These so called “brats” have to grow up learning to cope with the stress of being offspring of an American soldier.

Studies on military families have shown that in general, children who move frequently experience greater difficulty making friends, more school-related difficulties and have more emotional and behavioral problems than children who move less frequently. Children are just expected by their military parents to uproot their lives for the supposedly greater good of the family.

The military probably couldn’t do its job without the strongly held beliefs of soldiers and officers regarding the importance of honor. Military service is a respectful job responsible for defending this great country. To what extent though, do the children of these heroes have to suffer for their country?

For many, geographic mobility is the most stressful aspect to growing up in a military family. It’s not fair for these children to be put into high anxiety situations at their most vulnerable stages of life. Childhood should be spent focusing on developing positive friendships with peers and increasing academic status. How are the children supposed to do so when they have to relocate and leave all their familiar settings behind?

It is a vicious cycle that will never end until the parent retires or is discharged from his or her position. The only hope that the children will have is the fact that at the legal age of 18, they can then decide where and when they want to move.

A study by Dr. Jeffrey D Leitzel found that adolescents in military families who had to adjust to a move reported significantly more difficulty leaving their old friends and making new friends than did youths from civilian families.

Furthermore, delays in making new friends were associated with feelings of loneliness, depression and social alienation, while a longer length of time in their current residence was associated with fewer symptoms of depression.

In the end, it is the parents’ decision alone. They are the only ones who decide to choose the military as their career of choice. It is a free country, and it’s also our free will to decide to defend it.

The American military family should be prepared to deal with the painful emotional ups and downs during the childhood of the military brat that they also brought into this world.

Author: Mary Beth Kelton

I am a senior at UMHB and loving it! I am the features editor for The Bells and I also intern at the Temple Chamber of Commerce. I transferred to UMHB fall 2008 and God has done so many amazing things with my life. I am excited to graduate in May but more excited about the next two semesters and the memories that I will gain. I plan to continue my education by obtaining a masters degree in sociology after graduation unless I am somehow blessed with a job.

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