Since 9/11, the United States has seen the largest sustained deployment of military service men and women in the history of the all-volunteer force, and our knowledge of military children and their families -- one of the largest American subcultures, affecting 2 million children -- has become outdated.
To that end, the Future of Children -- a collaboration between the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and the Brookings Institution -- has released the first comprehensive report since 9/11 to uncover what we know (and don't know) about such families, including current challenges, helpful programs and policies that could strengthen these family units.
While most military children grow into resilient adults, they are not always visible to the outside community, the journal reports. Longitudinal studies charting these children's lives are needed to better understand their strengths, resilience and social support networks. Likewise, the authors write, many current programs for military children were rolled out quickly, at a time of pressing need, but few are based on scientific evidence of what works.
"This issue of Future of Children teaches us that military children are everywhere, and that the best way to meet their needs is to build on the strengths that their families and communities already possess," said Sara McLanahan, editor-in-chief of Future of Children and William S. Tod Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School.
"Much of the research about military children examines stressful experiences or difficulties," said journal co-editor Richard M. Lerner, Bergstrom Chair in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development and director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University. "While this focus is important, such research doesn't tell the entire story -- the story about the strengths and resilience of military children and their families. The articles in this issue of Future of Children expand our knowledge by discussing the nature and sources of positive development of military children and illuminate a path toward a more representative depiction of these youth and their families."
The journal's key findings follow.
While there is much to learn about military children and their families, what is already known about military families can teach us about civilian families as well, the authors write.
"Finding what works among military families to promote resilience and protect child development may have profound significance for the future of all American children," said journal contributor Ann Masten, Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Psychology, University of Minnesota.
Access to this special edition of this journal can be found at: http://futureofchildren.org/futureofchildren/publications/journals/journal_details/index.xml?journalid=80
Materials provided by Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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