Thankfully, in recent years, more attention has been paid to the health concerns of returning veterans. Whereas past generations of veterans were expected to simply repress the horrors of war, the Veterans Association now provides extensive resources for soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD).

But there's more to it than that. Children of military personnel could face elevated risks for social, emotional, and behavioral problems, according to a new report published in Pediatrics. Published on May 27 in honor of Memorial Day 2013, the study shines some light on another major issue that doesn't the ink it deserves.

According to the study, over 2 million children have seen a parent or other loved one deployed in the past ten years. These children experience an increased sense of danger and a routine of daily uncertainty following the deployment. The results can be serious; according to the report:

  • one in four children of active-duty service members have symptoms of depression
  • one in five have academic problems
  • one in three report "excessive worrying"
  • half have trouble sleeping

Problems differed depending on age. Infants and toddlers have, to this point, been the least well-studied group, but two large studies to this point found that "children of preschool age children affected by current wartime deployments revealed higher emotional reactivity, anxiousness/depression, somatic complaints, and withdrawal than did children whose parents were not deployed."

School-age children tend to be most affected by parental stress — there is a trickle down affect. In this group, sleep problems tend to be a major issue. School-age children affected by deployment are 2.4 times as likely to have emotional and behavioral problems as others children.

In adolescents — teens — "there were reported changes in relationship with the deployed parent, concern and anxiety about the deployed parent's wellbeing, and worse performance in school, yet increases in responsibility and maturity in caring for younger siblings." In addition, teens of deployed parents are at a much higher than normal risk for maltreatment and physical abuse.

The length of deployment matter as well — studies indicate that longer deployment periods lead to an increased risk of mental health issues. Tours of duty vary in length, but can be as long as 18 months at a time — and of course, military personnel can end up being deployed multiple times.

Those are just the problems that can occur during service time. Coping with a parent's return can be just as difficult on a child. If a military service member returns with a life-changing physical injury, traumatic brain injury, depression, anxiety, or PTSD, it can change the dynamic of the household, and significantly affect their spouses and children.

The report, authored by Benjamin S. Siegel and Beth Ellen Davis on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics, called on pediatricians to take a more active role in assessing and treating the mental health concerns of the children of service men and women. To start, it means understanding how a child feels about the military life.

"Asking 'How are you doing with this deployment?' may be the single most important family assessment question," the report says. The report goes on to offer age-specific recommendations for helping a child through a deployment, including how to cope at school.

Sadly - but relevant on this Memorial Day - the report concludes with some recommendations on how to help a child cope with injury or death of a parent.

"From October 1, 2001, through February 6, 2012, there were 6,351 American casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and Operation Enduring Freedom and 47,545 wounded in action," notes the report. Sixty percent of the U.S. military has a family at home, and it's inevitable that there are children who will be affected by injury and death.

The report makes it clear that it is essential that doctors, health care providers, and child care providers all maintain awareness of the distinct issues that come along with dealing with these types of trauma.