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Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger in l986 designated each April as “The Month of the Military Child.”  Military families, especially children, face numerous challenges in peacetime, and especially during war.  The protracted nature of the current conflicts in the Middle East and the number of recurrent deployments are unique challenges military families face.   Since October 2001, about 1.6 million U.S. troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Further, about 2 million U.S. children have a parent in either active duty or reserve component of the military.   Studies have shown that children of deployed service members face numerous emotional and behavioral challenges.  Children from military families report significantly higher levels of emotional difficulties than children in the general population.  Not only do more military children report symptoms of anxiety, which is higher than that of the general population, the anxiety remains whether the parent is currently deployed or recently returned.  

When a parent is deployed, a child faces the uncertainty of knowing when or if a parent will return.   Not only are these feelings of anxiety heightened by daily media reports of conflicts, family members may show increased anxiety that is unintentionally communicated to a child.   Further, being in a military culture ensures that the child is exposed to reminders of what may happen to his or her parent.  When a parent returns from deployment, the child may experience further anxiety or trauma, especially if the parent has sustained injuries.  If a parent is killed while deployed, the child continues to suffer from the trauma of separation, perceptions of everyday violence, and grief from the death of a parent.

Alison SalloumDr. Alison Salloum, a nationally renowned researcher in the treatment of childhood trauma in the School of Social Work at the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences at the University of South Florida, has extensive experience in the treatment of childhood trauma. She is specifically interested in examining psychosocial interventions for young children, children, adolescents, and their families, who have been exposed to various types of traumatic events such as violence, disasters, and death.  Dr. Salloum developed a grief and trauma intervention (GTI) for children experiencing PTSD who have witnessed or been a direct victim of violence, and is currently  investigating a stepped care trauma-focused intervention designed to be accessible, efficient, and cost-effective to improve access to evidence-based treatment.  The stepped care intervention is particularly effective for treating childhood anxiety.

Dr. Salloum reminds us, “It is so important that we offer military families with children accessible and effective treatment. We need to provide an array of interventions to meet the unique needs of each family and child, such as support groups, parenting support, and treatment for anxiety, trauma, traumatic grief, and depression. These interventions need to be convenient for parents to minimize any additional burden.”

For more about Dr. Salloum’s work with children experiencing trauma, visit her website, contact her by email, or read about her published worksin PubMed.

The School of Social Workin the College of College of Behavioral and Community Sciences at the University of South Florida prepares its graduates to achieve excellence as professionals and leaders in social work practice, research, and education, starting with its undergraduate program and culminating with its doctoral program.  Nearly 4000 alums of the School are working as leaders of state, regional, and local social service agencies and non-profit organizations.

Established in 2008, the College of Behavioral & Community Sciencesserves more than 2,600 students with six undergraduate, nine masters, and five doctoral programs housed in seven academic departments/schools. The College is the home of the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, one of the largest behavioral health research and training institutes in the country as well as 19 specialized Research Centers and Institutes.

Serving nearly 48,000 students, the University of South Florida is one of the largest public universities in the nation, and among the top 50 universities, public or private, for federal research expenditures. It is one of only four Florida public universities classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in the top tier of research universities, a distinction attained by only 2.3 percent of all universities

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