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Health Team

Study: Child Abuse Rises During Deployment

Posted July 31, 2007 10:07 p.m. EDT

The children of soldiers are more likely to be maltreated when one parent is deployed, according to a new study.

The Department of Defense commissioned the study to determine if the military's support services for families are reaching enough people.

Data collected by the Army was analyzed at the Research Triangle Institute International and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Rates of child maltreatment at home increased when one spouse was in combat, according to the results published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The rate of maltreatment by female parents, mothers or stepmothers, was more than three times greater during the soldier's deployment as it was during other times," the study author, Deborah Gibbs, said.

The most common abuse was physical neglect, such as not providing for children's basic needs or not providing adequate supervision for children.

Sally Hines said she's experienced the difficulty of raising two daughters with her husband away. He has been deployed to three times to Afghanistan and three times to Iraq, Hines said.

"It's hard. You try to be the best mother when the father is not there. Being a mother is one of the hardest jobs out there," Hines said.

The results show that military mothers need special services when fathers are deployed, said Gibbs, who works for RTI International and holds a Masters of Science in Public Health.

"These services must be delivered in a way that the parents who are most in need are going to be able to take advantage of them," said Gibbs.

Hines said that she gets help through support groups and friends. Staying focused on her daughters' needs helps her cope with her husband's absence, Hines said.

"They (her daughters) can be in a happy environment even when the parent, the second parent, is not at home," Hines said.