Child Abuse and Neglect in the Armed Services

Relatively little research has been done on child maltreatment in the armed services: the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. However, some data does indicate that child abuse and neglect is a serious problem in the military just as in civilian life.

According to NCANDS data, there were 16,673 reports of alleged child maltreatment in the military in 1996.

In 48 percent of the investigations, there were dispositions of substantiated maltreatment of children.

A breakdown of the type of child maltreatment victims found in the armed services follows:

* Forty-two percent were victims of neglect.
* Thirty-six percent were physical abuse victims.
* Fourteen percent were sexual abuse victims.
* Seventeen percent were victims of emotional maltreatment.

Child maltreatment in the armed services has been associated with military life itself and circumstances within, including substance abuse, disciplinary infractions, reassignment, field training, payroll problems, living abroad, foreign spouses, and intra-cultural problems.

John Miller reported that the most vulnerable population in the military for child maltreatment are young enlisted families who have been in the service for less than 3 years.

Within this group are “high-risk families, as in civilian life, characterized by “inexperience, immaturity, lack of social skills, and inability to cope with life’s stresses and problems.”

In a study of the types of child maltreatment in the armed services conducted at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, it was found that 7 percent of the cases were “disciplinary abuse.”

The term was first used in a study classifying types of child maltreatment among the civilian population, and descriptive of the typical pattern of the “military syndrome.”

The abusive parents were described as “rigid and unfeeling… the homes were spotless… abuse was centered upon any child who broke the rules and straps and sticks were used in place of hands.”

Although Family Advocacy Programs personnel in the armed services are required to report cases of child abuse and neglect to the child abuse registry in the state in which the victim lives, much like civilians, most child maltreatment in the military is believed to go unreported and, thus, remains a hidden tragedy

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