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Parent's Deployment Linked to Child's Mental Health Visits

Visits for mental and behavioral health increase by 11 percent when military parent is deployed

MONDAY, Nov. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Children of military personnel appear to have an increase in outpatient visits for mental and behavioral health issues while a parent is deployed, according to research published online Nov. 8 in Pediatrics.

Gregory H. Gorman, M.D., of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues analyzed data from 642,397 children aged 3 to 8 and 442,722 active-duty military parents. Records from fiscal years 2006 and 2007 were assessed for mental and behavioral health visits using ICD-9 codes.

The researchers found that visits increased by 11 percent when a military parent was deployed. Behavioral and stress disorders increased by 19 and 18 percent, respectively. Larger increases were seen in older children, children with fathers in the military, and children with married parents.

"Among the important findings from this study is that 65 percent of the services provided to children for mental health and behavioral problems occur 'outside the gate' -- by civilian pediatricians and other child-serving providers. Along with numerous smaller studies that have sought to understand the effects of parental wartime deployment on children and youth, this article should fortify general pediatricians, both civilian and military, in their primary care role of recognizing and responding to the mental health/behavioral needs of military children," writes the author of an accompanying commentary.

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