Academic journal article Journal of Instructional Psychology

The Catholic School Community as a Protective Factor for Students Whose Military Parents Have Been Deployed

Academic journal article Journal of Instructional Psychology

The Catholic School Community as a Protective Factor for Students Whose Military Parents Have Been Deployed

Article excerpt

This study explores school-based mental health services for students who have experienced the military deployment of a parent. Military deployment creates a period of uncertainty and reorganization of the family as the family prepares for or adjusts to the deployment. Children often report anxiety, sadness, and anger in response to parental deployment. The purpose of this study is to explore emotional responses and the classroom performance of these students and the school-based mental health services that are necessary for positive school engagement. As a preliminary study in a rural area, school, church, and Catholic Charities become a social community acting as a single unit, which meet The Search Institute's criteria as a protective factor for minimizing at-risk school behaviors. In a secondary analysis of data, five case studies were examined considering their presenting problems at time of referral, psychosocial symptoms with respect to classroom performance. Upon inspection, classroom performance may be affected negatively in children who present with psychosocial symptoms. This suggests that students may benefit from school-based mental health services when a parent is deployed and a school community such as The Catholic School Community, in this case. Further, this may indicate the importance of school personnel being adequately trained and involved in a school community in order to respond appropriately to the mental health needs of the students as a way of educating the "whole child" emotionally, spiritually, and academically.

Key Words: school community, Catholic Charities, faith-based schools, deployment, asset-building, protective factors

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As the numbers of military deployments have increased since the events of September 11,2001, so has the number of children exposed to the deployment of a parent. This increase in deployments amplifies the importance of understanding how children are impacted by parental deployment. Consistent with Family Systems Theory, previous research indicates that parental deployment creates changes within the family structure, roles and rules which may increase stress and anxiety for children and families (Huebner, Mancini, Wilcox, Grass, & Grass, 2007). Other research suggests that academic performance may be impaired in children who experience parental deployment (Lyle, 2006) and that children with behavioral or emotional disorders may experience deficits in academic performance (Nelson, Benner, Lane, & Smith, 2004). This is a secondary-data analysis of the referral forms, summaries of case files, that examined reported psychosocial symptoms and classroom performance of students referred to a social worker intern who provided school-based mental health services with faith-based school, church, and family service organization functioning as a school community. In addition, this information may support the expansion of school-based mental health services in private and public schools and communities that function as a school community.

Military Children and Deployment

Although some research is available on the response of adults to deployment, little research is available that focuses on children's response to deployment. Furthermore, the few available studies consider either the psychosocial responses to deployment or the impact of emotional and behavioral disorders on academic success but do not consider any possible connection between the two. Most of the research about the impact of deployment on family members has been conducted by military psychiatrists and nurses; however, access to this information may be limited because it may be sensitive information that may impact the military mission. Only recently, researchers have begun to recognize the intersection of mental health, academic achievement, and family transition, such as military deployment. More typically, when addressing the mental health needs of children, schools have focused on learning disabilities rather than acknowledging and intervening with emotional, behavioral, or psychosocial disorders of students. …

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