An article in USA Today takes a look at increased rates of child abuse in the deployed military:
Sending soldiers to war puts their children left at home at higher risk of abuse and neglect, says a study out Tuesday.
The study among military families shows that reports of emotional, physical and sexual abuse and child neglect peaked during the main deployment of troops to Iraq. When deployments began, reports of abuse quickly jumped from 5 in 1,000 children to 10 in 1,000.
The study found that victims were typically age 4 or younger and the abuser was usually the parent who remained at home while a spouse was deployed. Military families had lower rates of child maltreatment than civilian families before war. The study found that abuse rates soared when parents were sent to active duty.
And why is this? Here’s the answer they give:
“The stress of war extends beyond the soldier and the military personnel to impact the family,” said lead researcher Danielle Rent
But is that really it? I doubted it, so I did a quick google search on single parents and child abuse. Without going past the first page, I found this:
A recent British study found that the rate of child abuse is lowest in intact families, six times higher in blended families, 13 times higher in single-mother families and 20 times higher in single-father families.
Here is a chart from a Unicef study using data from the US in 1993 showing a less dramatic, but still significant, result:
So the “stress of war” is more likely to be the “stress of single parenting.”
This is not to say that having a family member in a war zone is not stressful on the rest of the family – it certainly is. But before attributing an increase in child abuse to the war itself, one should account for the more mundane influences that affect this behavior.