Child Maltreatment in Military Families: Risk and Protective Factors, and Family-Systems Interventions

  • Emily D. WolodigerEmail author
  • Jonathan S. Goldner
  • Ashton M. Lofgreen
  • William R. Saltzman
  • Patricia E. Lester
  • Niranjan S. Karnik
Living reference work entry


Approximately 40% of United States military personnel are parents to dependent children, and nearly five million people in the United States are considered to be part of a military family (Department of Defense 2017). Military families face unique stressors, including possible deployments, separations, moves, disruption of routines, physical and/or mental wounds in the service member, and new demands on the nonmilitary caretaker. Such stressors have the potential to impair parenting practices and disrupt family functioning. Although the prevalence of child maltreatment in military families historically has been lower than that of civilian families, factors specific to military involvement – including the post-9/11 rise in lengthy deployments – place military children at elevated risk for maltreatment. Child maltreatment has significant adverse physical, psychological, behavioral, intergenerational, and societal consequences. However, long-term consequences can be mitigated through the use of preventive measures and trauma-informed care. Despite the increase in reported child maltreatment in military families over the past 18 years, protective factors embedded into military culture – including the military values of strength, integrity, and community – support family recovery and resilience. This chapter will highlight the literature on child maltreatment in military families, including its prevalence and associated risk and protective factors. It will then describe evidence-informed psychological interventions designed specifically to support adaptive functioning and/or parenting in military families. Finally, it will summarize additional evidence-based treatments that have been adapted for use with military families.


Child maltreatment Military families Parenting Deployment Resilience Evidence-informed interventions 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily D. Wolodiger
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jonathan S. Goldner
    • 1
  • Ashton M. Lofgreen
    • 1
  • William R. Saltzman
    • 2
  • Patricia E. Lester
    • 2
  • Niranjan S. Karnik
    • 1
  1. 1.Rush University Medical CenterChicagoUSA
  2. 2.University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human BehaviorLos AngelesUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Ernestine Briggs
    • 1
  • Javonda Williams
    • 2
  • Michelle Clayton
    • 3
  • Stacie LeBlanc
    • 4
  • Viola Vaughan-Eden
    • 5
  • Amy Russell
    • 6
    • 7
  1. 1.Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.School of Social WorkUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA
  3. 3.Associate Professor of PediatricsEastern Virginia Medical School/Children's Hospital of The King's DaughtersNorfolkUSA
  4. 4.The UP Institute, CEONew OrleansUSA
  5. 5.Ethelyn R. Strong School of Social WorkNorfolk State UniversityNorfolkUSA
  6. 6.Owner/Principle Consultant & TrainerRussell Consulting Specialists, LLcVancouverUSA
  7. 7.Executive DirectorArthur D. Curtis Children's Justice Center

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