Infants and Young Children in Military Families: A Conceptual Model for Intervention
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- Lieberman, A.F. & Van Horn, P. Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev (2013) 16: 282. doi:10.1007/s10567-013-0140-4
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Infants and young children of parents in the military deserve special attention because the first years of life are pivotal in establishing trusting attachment relationships, which are based on the developmental expectation that parents will be reliably available and protective both physically and emotionally. For young children in military families, the stresses of extended absences of mothers and/or fathers as the result of deployment abroad, recurrent separations and reunions resulting from repeated deployments, or parents struggling with the emotional sequelae of their war experiences, and the traumatic impact of parental injury and death can strain and derail the normative expectation of parental availability and protectiveness. This article describes the key features of mental health in infancy and early childhood, the developmentally expectable early anxieties that all children experience in the first years of life across cultures and circumstances, and the ways in which these normative anxieties are exacerbated by the specific circumstances of military families. The article also describes interventions that may be helpful in supporting military families and their children with the specific challenges they face.