Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Child Abuse in Deployed Families (Part 2)

You're welcome. I had been mulling this for a while. I was really getting ticked with the titles of the news reports that were coming out. Very deceptive headings. Made it sound like it was categorically true of all military families when the truth was that only 1,771 families were looked at world-wide and those families already had prior incidences with abuse. And these families studied did not include officer's families or single parent families.

What those news reports don't show is that prior to deployments starting in 2003, instances of child maltreatment in the military community were considerably less than those among their civilian counterparts per 1,000 children. This last report indicates that while incidents of maltreatment among active duty army families have increased, they're only marginally higher than those reported in the civilian sector.

Very few studies exist making a comparison of child abuse between military families and civilian families. Those that do exist are really not representative of the complete military community. For example, guard and reserve families are often not included because there's not a base anywhere near where they live. Underreporting could be happening in cases involving military families due to reports going to Child Proctive Services (CPS) instead of to the Family Advcacy Programs (FAP).

Additionally, there is no uniform definition of what maltreatment or abuse is. Each branch of service has it's own definition and it's own reporting system as do all 50 states. Some report by incident instead of by the case. Others report by the family instead of by the child. Until an across the board system and definition are put into practice, results from these kinds of studies are going to have some sort of bias to them.

What is consistent, though, is the lower the rank, the younger the parents, and the younger the child, the greater the potential for maltreatment. Also of importance is whether or not the family has experience with prior deployments in how to cope with the stressors involved.

It's also important to point out that this most recent study was a secondary analysis of data collected from September 2001 to December 2004. Since that time, MANY improvements have been made to FAPs for all branches. So, this study is really looking at specific time period of post 9/11 predeployment and comparing that to a first time deployment time frame of about 20 months.

I really don't think JAMA or RTI are the bad guys here. They published an objective report covering a specific time period. For the media to frenzy on it like they have is irresponsible. The report from FOX News just set me off. I knew it wascoming because FOX likes to report some pretty left-side stuff, but getting Stacy Bannerman to comment for the article was inappropriate. First, she belongs to an anti-war group composed of military families. Second, she has no children. Third, her marriage dissolved after her husband returned from Iraq. Who better to ask about the effects of deployments on child abuse?

Now, I'm not painting a bulls eye on Miss Bannerman. Don't go sending her nasty hate mail. I don't agree with everything she has to say, but she makes some valid points. She was a deployed spouse as so many of us have been. That kind of service is not measurable and I embrace her for enduring and suffering the months of lonliness. Miss Bannerman is right that more needs to be done in terms of VA treatment for veterans. She's especially right that more needs to be done in terms of outreach programs for national guardsmen/women and reservists who don't have ready access to base facilities and programs. I applaud her for her trips to DC to try to correct these issues that have seemingly slipped through the cracks.

I don't agree with her views about if we should even be in Iraq, but she's entitled to her opinion on that matter and I respect that. I don't agree that not funding the war is the best way to "Support Our Troops". I think she swings from both sides of the plate with that conviction while at the same time demanding better training and equipment for the guard and reserve. IBA doesn't grow on trees. Neither does night vision goggles, MREs, fuel, amunition, transportation, MRAPs, or anything else.

Miss Bannerman also contends that deployments cause more divorces. A study by Rand Corp. contests her claim by stating that wartime and peacetime divorces are pretty much equal. You'll notice a .5% gain in percentages of divorces, but that is explainable by looking at the numbers or couples getting married in the military vs. the numbers getting divorced in a given year. For example, if there are 1,000 married couples in 2001, 100 couples get married, totaling 1,100 and 75 get divorced, the divorce ratio is approx. 6.8%. This leaves 1,025 carried over to the next year. If only 50 couples marry in 2002, totaling 1,075 married couples, but the number of divorces stays constant at 75, now the divorce rate is very close to 7%.

I have searched and searched and I can not find any article, prior to the release of RTI's data review, where Miss Bannerman adressess child abuse in military families. From what I have seen of her book reviews, it also does not address child abuse. There's no doubt that Miss Bannerman is an educated woman with some alphabet soup behind her name. Her opinion is as educated as the next person; but, what is it that makes her qualified to speak on the topic of child abuse? I have no idea.

My point here is this. FOX News used Miss Bannerman, in or out of context (it doesn't matter), to support it's political stance on this war and to be able to have another bullet for it's political weapon. "Deployments cause child abuse! Bring the troops home!" Bologna. Parents/caregivers cause child abuse. Military or civilian.

Along those same lines, "Deployments cause undue stresses, lower academic performance, and higher rates of depression in children! Bring the troops home!" This one is true, but the same can be said for divorce, the death of a loved one, a hurricane, or any other traumatic life change.

I really want to encourage people to look closely at issues that popular media presents in articles and stories. Ask yourself the critical questions. Research it if you like. Just never ever take the word of the media at face value.


LoveMyTanker said...

Great follow up!!

Scully's Moulder said...

Thanks. Spread it around. Link it up. It's all good to me. I hope I have this much time to dedicate here after school starts again.

Kim said...

Just found your blog. Just wanted to say hi

Val said...

Both of your posts gave a good thorough analysis of why the reports were poorly publicized. They gave words to the vague sense of "wait a second" I felt when I first heard of it. Thank you.

Scully's Moulder said...

Hi back and thanks for stoppnig in. Always glad to make new friends. :)

You're welcome. I'm amazed at how quickly some people jump on the bandwagon for things like this without really looking at it. I actually feel a part three coming on because since I finished part two, I started thinking of more things about this that I didn't address. I don't think I'll be completely satisfied with myself until I've killed a few more brain cells. LOL Thanks for stopping by. :)

Homefront Six said...

Wonderful analysis. A lot more thoughtful and intelligent than mine (which was more of a knee-jerk reaction than anything else). I did not realize that the families they surveyed already had an instance of child abuse already logged. That puts it ALL in a different light.

It floors me that the Pentagon would spend such money on a survey where the results were already known before the survey even began. There are many other, better things to spend that kind of money upon.

Glad to have found your blog!

Scully's Moulder said...

Homefront Six,
Glad you found your way over. It's always awesome to get other peoples input, in my opinion. I hope I didn't make you feel unthoughtful or unintelligent. It certainly was not my intention. Best wish and good luck to you. :)

Homefront Six said...

No! By no means! I'm a red head and tend to react first and think later. Not always an asset in life. But I'm working on it. I love to hear others' viewpoints and get input as well. I can be myopic in my views so I try to get as many opinions and thoughts on things as possible to broaden my horizon.