Military families in the US experience unique forms of stress, especially when one or both parents are deployed. And this shows up at the pediatrician's office, according to one recent study that found young children of single parents on active duty military service were less likely to get medical care than children of two-parent military home.
Released June 7, 2010 in advance of publication in the July 2010 print issue of the journal Pediatrics, the study tracked nearly 170,000 children, one-third of whom had a parent that had been deployed at least once since 2007—all children were 2 or younger when their parent was deployed. According to researchers, young children from single-parent families experienced a drop-off in both outpatient visits for illness and well-child visits during parental deployment. But for children from two-parent homes, in which only one parent was deployed, sick- and well-child visits actually went up, researchers notes.
"The bottom line is that military deployment of parents does affect the healthcare of their kids," says study co-author Dr. Gregory Gorman, a military-based commander and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, in a HealthDay article on the study.
Age also seemed to matter, too, with children of young, single-parent families going in for the least number of visits and children of two-parent families, in which parents were older, visiting the doctors with the most frequency. Researchers speculate that some military families, especially those with more established support networks and better resources, may be able to carry out more frequent healthcare visits than other families.
"Older couples in which one parent was deployed were actually bringing in their children for care more often than young, single-parent families. So the younger, single group should be one that we target to make sure that kids get the healthcare they need," Gorman says.