The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) consists of a unique culture, with particular regulations, traditions, history, language, and customs permeating all areas of life. Although there has been an increase in research examining the impact of militarized culture on the experiences of serving members, military family members often find themselves omitted from the conversation. For CIMF, the operational tempo of military life impacts virtually every area of their development, including behavioral, social, and psychological traits (Chandra et al., 2010). CIMF experience unique stressors compared to civilian peers, such as frequent relocations, lengthy separations from the serving parent(s), heightened awareness of international conflicts, and participation in longstanding hierarchical traditions. There is an abundance of empirical support demonstrating that CIMF are at increased risk of receiving mental health diagnoses during their adolescent years, particularly in relation to their serving parents’ deployments or deployment related mental health struggles (Cramm et al., 2019; Krešić Ćorić et al., 2016; Lester et al., 2010). Despite the prevalence of existing literature, however, the majority of studies have relied on reports from parents or psychologists rather than engaging with the direct experiences of the child. To understand the role of military culture in the upbringing of CIMF, researchers must seek to integrate the unique and diverse perspectives of these individuals. By integrating these perspectives, my aim is to provide effective support that addresses the unique stressors of military life while also fostering a more positive relationship between the CAF and military families.
My Current Project
I recruited adults who grew up in military families, whose parents deployed on at least one mission with the potential of moral injury, to take part in one-on-one qualitative interviews. Interview questions were developed through a lifespan perspective, allowing participants to reflect on various long-term implications they experienced during their parent’s service in the CAF. Specific questions directed towards the experiences of military culture were included, such as “how did military culture impact your experiences of growing up?” and “are there instances where military culture continues to impact your life?” with responses reflecting a variety of experiences. While some participants reflected on the resiliency factors they developed throughout their childhood, many reflected on moments where “It was sad. It was shitty”. These participants noted that the culture of the military was ever present, and there was a distinct void of support directly available to them. Where supports may have been offered, CIMF were dependent on the at-home parent to access them. This may present CIMF with a dilemma: the militarized culture in which they find themselves discourages seeking support (Peck & Parcell, 2021), and parents may be less likely to make CIMF aware of support options available. However, participants in this study also noted the many positive changes they have seen the institution implement throughout their life. Participants frequently reflected on the benefits of Military Family Resource Centres, additional opportunities to communicate with family members while deployed, and optimism that the CAF is moving in the right directions.
My research has broad implications, for both civilian and military members. My findings support that military culture has long-lasting impacts on CIMF, and demonstrate the need for inclusion of child specific support options to military families. Additionally, academics and researchers can build on my findings to conduct more studies that involve the direct perspectives of CIMF. This will allow us to better understand the nuances of military culture and directions for future military culture change.
Segal, M. W. (1986). The military and the family as greedy institutions. Armed Forces & Society, 13(1), 9–38. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095327X8601300101
Chandra, A., Lara-Cinisomo, S., Haycox, L. H., Tanielian, T., Burns, R. M., Ruder, T., Han, B. (2010). Children on the homefront: The experience of children from military families. Pediatrics, 125(1), 16–25. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2009-1180
Cramm, H., McColl, M. A., Aiken, A. B., Williams, A. (2019). The mental health of military-connected children: A scoping review. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 28(7), 1725–1735. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-019-01402-y
Krešić Ćorić, M., Klarić, M., Petrov, B., Mihić, N. (2016). Psychological and behavioral problems in children of war veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The European Journal of Psychiatry, 30(3), 219–230.
Lester, P., Peterson, K., Reeves, J., Knauss, L., Glover, D., Mogil, C., Duan, N., Saltzman, W., Pynoos, R., Wilt, K., & Beardslee, W. (2010). The long war and parental combat deployment: Effects on military children and at-home spouses. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 49(4), 310–320. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2010.01.003
Peck, B. S., & Parcell, E. S. (2021). Talking about mental health: Dilemmas U.S. military service members and spouses experience post deployment. Journal of Family Communication, 21(2), 90–106. https://doi.org/10.1080/15267431.2021.1887195