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      Child maltreatment in enlisted soldiers' families during combat-related deployments.

      JAMA
      Adolescent, Adult, Child, Child Abuse, statistics & numerical data, Child, Preschool, Combat Disorders, epidemiology, psychology, Family Relations, Female, Humans, Infant, Male, Military Personnel, United States, War

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          Abstract

          Parental stress is believed to play a critical role in child maltreatment, and deployment is often stressful for military families. To examine the association between combat-related deployment and rates of child maltreatment in families of enlisted soldiers in the US Army who had 1 or more substantiated reports of child maltreatment. Descriptive case series of substantiated incidents of parental child maltreatment in 1771 families of enlisted US Army soldiers who experienced at least 1 combat deployment between September 2001 and December 2004. Conditional Poisson regression models were used to estimate rate ratios (RRs) that compare rates of substantiated child maltreatment incidents during periods of deployment and nondeployment. A total of 1858 parents in 1771 different families maltreated their children. In these families, the overall rate of child maltreatment was higher during the times when the soldier-parents were deployed compared with the times when they were not deployed (942 incidents and 713 626 days at risk during deployments vs 2392 incidents and 2.6 million days at risk during nondeployment; RR, 1.42 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 1.31-1.54]). During deployment, the rates of moderate or severe maltreatment also were elevated (638 incidents and 447 647 days at risk during deployments vs 1421 incidents and 1.6 million days at risk during nondeployment; RR, 1.61 [95% CI, 1.45-1.77]). The rates of child neglect were nearly twice as great during deployment (761 incidents and 470 657 days at risk during deployments vs 1407 incidents and 1.6 million days at risk during nondeployment; RR, 1.95 [95% CI, 1.77-2.14]); however, the rate of physical abuse was less during deployments (97 incidents and 80 033 days at risk during deployments vs 451 incidents and 318 326 days at risk during nondeployment; RR, 0.76 [95% CI, 0.58-0.93]). Among female civilian spouses, the rate of maltreatment during deployment was more than 3 times greater (783 incidents and 382 480 days at risk during deployments vs 832 incidents and 1.2 million days at risk during nondeployment; RR, 3.33 [95% CI, 2.98-3.67]), the rate of child neglect was almost 4 times greater (666 incidents and 303 555 days at risk during deployments vs 605 incidents and 967 362 days at risk during nondeployment; RR, 3.88 [95% CI, 3.43-4.34]), and the rate of physical abuse was nearly twice as great (73 incidents and 18 316 days at risk during deployments vs 141 incidents and 61 105 days at risk during nondeployment; RR, 1.91 [95% CI, 1.33-2.49]). Among families of enlisted soldiers in the US Army with substantiated reports of child maltreatment, rates of maltreatment are greater when the soldiers are on combat-related deployments. Enhanced support services may be needed for military families during periods of increased stress.

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