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Abstract

The purpose of this study is to investigate the differences in parentification in military families with a deployed parent and without a deployed parent. Parentification has been defined as a parent-child relationship in which the child is given roles and responsibilities that are inappropriate for the child's developmental level. Previous research has highlighted increased rates of parentification in situations involving parental absence or unavailability, such as divorce, parental illness, parental alcoholism, and domestic violence. This construct was assessed using the Parentification Questionnaire – Youth, a 20 item self-report survey for children and adolescents. Participants consisted of 22 children, ages 7-17, from military families with a deployed parent and military families without a deployed parent. After removing two statistical outliers from the intact military families group, an independent samples t-test was conducted. It was found that there was a significant difference between military families with a deployed parent and military families without a deployed parent. In summary, military families with a deployed parent had higher rates of parentification than military families without a deployed parent. Limitations of the present study include small sample size, external influences through the possible presence of one or both parents during the questionnaire, and the lack of control groups. Future research should expand the sample size, extend the study to more family groups (i.e. civilian, divorced, separated by work), and explore the possibility of positive or negative impacts of parentification on military children from families separated by deployment.

KEYWORDS: parentification, military children, deployment

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Study completed as part of a larger Department of Defense grant-funded study conducted by: Dr. Sandra Neer and Dr. Deborah C. Beidel, When Parents Go to War: Psychosocial Adjustment among the Families of Deployed OEF/OIF Service Members (11356008). Note of thanks to: Michael Bermes, W. Bryce Hagedorn, and Ashley Arens.

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