An interesting article appeared in today's Los Angeles Times about the detrimental effects a father's deployment in Iraq has had on his family - particularly his 4-year-old daughter Tatum. Marine Staff Sgt. Tyrone Baugh was deployed for one year in Iraq and the effects on his toddler were shocking. She became rebellious, punching and throwing scissors at her teachers. The article reports:
A recent Rand Corp. study commissioned by the National Assn. of Military Families showed that approximately a third of children aged 11 to 17 from military families reported anxiety symptoms — sleeplessness, unexplained fears — double that seen in civilian families.So, if being away from your young children for only a year can do so much damage, why isn't anyone asking "What about being divorced and being separated from them for their entire childhood?" Although divorced parents can have visitation rights, many of the same issues and feelings of abandonment and isolation come into play, especially when the divorce is being processed.
The youngest are also turning out to be more vulnerable than once thought: Tricare, the military's health insurance system, reported that mental health visits for children under 5 jumped 73% between 2005 and 2009.
"We would like to think that little kids won't remember, or won't notice; we know that's not accurate," said Ellen DeVoe, an associate professor of clinical practice at Boston University, who is developing a program to support young children with a parent returning from war. "Even babies and toddlers understand and will miss their parent. They may become withdrawn, they may cling to the parent at home. They don't yet understand the concept of time."
In the article, it states that Sgt. Baugh was returned stateside, but stationed in a town other than where his family had taken up residence, so he had to visit the kids on weekends and when he could. It also states that the problem persisted because Tatum didn't have full access to her father. And when the family tried to alleviate the problem by having Tatum move in with her dad, she cried at night because she didn't have her mom with her.
If a one year separation is problematic enough to warrant a front-page story in the Times, then the nastiness of a full-blown divorce must be off the charts. But something tells me it's too politically incorrect to chide divorcing parents in this day and age. I doubt the Times would cover that kind of story.