Skip to main content

School-Based Support for Students with a Parent on Military Deployment

  • Gail Macdonald (a1)

Parental deployment to a war zone brings many changes to family life. Changes in family roles and routines unsettle children and interfere with their educational engagement. Defence School Transition Aides (DSTAs) are employed in qualifying Australian schools to assist students from Australian Defence Force (ADF) families to manage transitions associated with a parental deployment to a war zone. Reported here are findings from a study that explored parents’, teachers’ and DSTAs’ perspectives of school-based support designed to assist students to cope with their changed circumstances when a parent is deployed. Results indicate that an appreciation of students’ worries by school personnel eased their distress. DSTAs facilitated processes whereby peers with deployed parents supported each other. Alerting teachers to an intended deployment was also found to be important as it allowed them to be alert to student behaviour changes and prepare ahead for possible student support needs. DSTAs reminded parents through school newsletters to pass on pertinent deployment-related information to the school so that a coordinated school–family approach for supporting students could be enacted. Further research is required to investigate the educational significance of student support offered by culturally aware key adults and student peers during major life transitions.

Corresponding author
address for correspondence: College of Arts, Society and Education (CASE), James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4816. E-mail:
Hide All
Astor, R. A., De Pedro, K., Gilreath, T. D., Esquada, M. C., & Benbenishty, R. (2013). The promotional role of school and community contexts. Clinical Child Family Psychological Review, 16, 233244.
Birks, M., & Mills, J. (2011). Grounded theory: A practical guide. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). Toward an experimental ecology of human development. American Psychologist, 32 (7), 513531. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.32.7.513
Chandra, A., Martin, L. T., Hawkins, S. A., & Richardson, A. (2010). The impact of parental deployment on child social and emotional functioning: Perspectives of school staff. Journal of Adolescent Health, 46 (3), 218223. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.10.009
Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Clarke, A. E. (2005). Situational analysis: Grounded theory after the postmodern turn. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.
Cozza, S. J. (2015). Meeting the intervention needs of military children and families. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 54 (4), 247248.
Cozza, S. J., & Lerner, R. M. (2013). Military children and families: Introducing the issue. Future of Children, 23 (2), 311.
Defence Community Organisation (DCO) (2007). Defence school transition aide program evaluation: October 2007 evaluation. Canberra, ACT: Defence Community Organisation.
Defence Community Organisation (DCO) (2011). Defence school transition aide program: August 2011 evaluation. Canberra, ACT: Defence Community Organisation.
De Pedro, K. T. (2015). Child maltreatment and military-connected youth: Developing protective school communities. Child Abuse and Neglect, 47, 124131. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2015.06.004.
De Pedro, K., Astor, R. A., Gilreath, T. D., Benbenishty, R., & Berkowitz, R. (2015). School climate, deployment, and mental health among students in military-connected schools. Youth and Society. doi: 10.1177/0044118X15592296.
De Pedro, K. M., Astor, R. A., Benbenishty, R., Estrada, J., Smith, G. R., & Esqueda, M. C. (2011). The children of military service members: Challenges, resources, and future educational research. Review of Educational Research, 81 (4), 566618. doi: 10.3102/0034654311423537.
Easterbrooks, M. A., Ginsburg, K., & Lerner, R. M. (2013). Resilience among military youth. Future of Children, 23 (2), 99120.
Eccles, J. S., Midgley, C., Wigfield, A., Buchanan, C. M., Reuman, D., Flanagan, C., & MacIver, D. (1993). Development during adolescence: The impact of stage environment fit on adolescents' in schools and in families. American Psychologist, 48 (2), 90101.
Esposito-Smythers, C., Wolff, J., Lemmon, K. M., Bodzy, M., Swenson, R. R., & Spirito, A. (2011). Military youth and the deployment cycle: Emotional health consequences and recommendations for intervention. Journal of Family Psychology, 25 (4), 497507. doi:10.1037/a0024534.
Fitzsimmons, V. M., & Krause-Parello, C. A. (2009). Military children: When parents are deployed overseas. The Journal of School Nursing, 25 (1), 4047. doi:10.1177/1059840508326733.
Garcia, E., de Pedro, K. T., Astor, R. A., Lester, P., & Benbenishty, R. (2015). FOCUS school-based skill-building groups: Training and implementation. Journal of Social Work Education, 51, S102S116. doi: 10.1080/10437797.2015.1001292.
Gitterman, A., & Germain, C. B. (2008). The life model of social work practice. New York: Columbia University Press.
Huebner, A. J., & Mancini, J. A. (2005). Adjustments among adolescents in military families when a parent is deployed: A final report submitted to the military family research institute and the Department of Defense quality of life office. Fall Church: Virginia, Virginia Tech, Department of Human Development.
Huebner, A. J., Mancini, J. A., Bowen, G. L., & Orthner, D. K. (2009). Shadowed by war: Building community capacity to support military families. Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies, 58, 216228.
Huebner, A. J., Mancini, J. A., Wilcox, R. M., Grass, S. R., & Grass, G. A. (2007). Parental deployment and youth in military families: Exploring uncertainty and ambiguous loss. Family Relations, 56, 112122.
Kudler, H., & Porter, R. I. (2013). Building communities of care for military children and families. Future of Children, 23 (2), 163185.
Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. California: Sage Publications, Inc.
McGuire, A., Runge, C., Cosgrove, L., Bredhauer, K., Anderson, R., Waller, M., . . . Nasveld, P. (2012). Timor-leste family study: Summary report. Brisbane: Centre for Military and Veteran's Health, Australia: University of Queensland.
Ministerial Council for Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) (1999). The Adelaide declaration on national goals for schooling in the twenty-first century. Canberra: Australian Government.
Mmari, K., Roche, K. M., Sudhinaraset, M., & Blum, R. (2009). When a parent goes off to war: Exploring the issues faced by adolescents and their families. Youth & Society, 40, 455475. doi: 10.1177/0044118X8327873.
Park, N. (2011). Military children and families: Strengths and challenges during peace and war. American Psychologist, 66 (1), 6572. doi: 10,1037/a0021249.
Richardson, A., Chandra, A., Martin, L. T., Setodji, C. M., Hallmark, B. W., Campbell, N. F., . . . Grady, P. (2011). Effects of soldiers' deployments on children's academic performance and behavioural health. Santa Monica: United States Army.
Siebler, P. (2003). Supporting Australian defence force peacekeepers and their families: The case of east timor. Canberra: Directorate of Strategic Personnel Planning and Research, Dept. of Defence.
Siebler, P. (2009). Military people won't ask for help: Experiences of deployment of Australian defence force personnel, their families, and implications for social workers. (Doctor of Philosophy), Monash, Melbourne. Retrieved from
Siebler, P., & Goddard, C. (2014). Parent's perspectives of their children's reactions to an Australian military deployment. Children Australia, 39 (1), 1724.
Tudge, J. R. H., Mokrova, I., Hatfield, B. E., & Karnik, R. B. (2009). Uses and misuses of Bronfenbrenner's bioecological theory of human development. Journal of Family Theory and Review, 1, 198210.
Waliski, A., Kirchner, J., Shue, V. M., & Bokony, P. (2012). Psychological traumas of war: Training school counselors as home-front responders. The Journal of Rural Health, 28, 348355.
Welters, R., & Delisle, A. (2009). A holistic analysis of the socio-economic impact of the Australian defence organisation and its interaction with the city of Townsville. Retrieved from
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Children Australia
  • ISSN: 1035-0772
  • EISSN: 2049-7776
  • URL: /core/journals/children-australia
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed