Professional Psychology: Research and Practice
Military families with young children face unique psychological and relational challenges during reintegration because of attachment disruption. This can increase psychological stress for service members. We examined three phases of the deployment cycle: predeployment, deployment, and reintegration to reveal risk and resilience factors that may impede or promote attachment relationships. We also explored the impact of predeployment preparation and deployment communication on service members’ parenting stress at reintegration. We conducted (N = 30) semistructured interviews with fathers who were deployed within 2 years of the study, and whose youngest child was 6 years old or younger during the deployment. We found that military fathers whose families did not have preparation strategies for maintaining father–child relationship during the deployment experienced more parenting stress after the deployment than did fathers whose families did use preparation strategies. All participants reportedly communicated with their children during deployment, although number of communication methods did not predict later parenting stress. The most common reintegration experiences were described as an adjustment period, parental stress, and time off of work. Strategies for building attachment as a means of promoting resilience throughout the deployment cycle are identified and discussed. (Author abstract)
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