Infant Mental Health Journal
Military fathers of young children often endure repeated separations from their children, and these may disrupt the early parent–child relationship. Postdeployment reunification also poses challenges; disruptions that have occurred must often be repaired in the context of heightened emotions on the part of each family member at a time when fathers are themselves readjusting to the routines and responsibilities of family life. The current study employed qualitative research with the central aim of informing a richer understanding of these experiences. Interviews were conducted with 14 military fathers of young children who had experienced separation from their families during deployment. Narratives were coded using principles of grounded theory, and common parenting themes were extracted. Fathers shared their hopes that their young children would develop qualities of strength, confidence, and self-sufficiency. They also discussed difficulty in supporting the development of these qualities in their young children due to problems dealing with the negative emotions and difficult behaviors that their children exhibited. Reliance on their parenting partner was commonly cited as an effective strategy as fathers transitioned back to family life. Implications for intervention programs include the provision of parenting and self-care skills and inclusion of the father's parenting partner in the intervention. (Author abstract)
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