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Child abuse in active-duty Army families spiked 40 percent from 2009 to 2012 as soldiers returned from the war zones in big numbers. But even when soldiers were heavily deployed, many of their children still suffered — at the hands of stressed-out spouses.

Dr. Rene Robichaux, the social work programs manager at Army Medical Command, points to a study on maltreatment of children that compared combat deployment periods to nondeployment periods. Among female civilian spouses, the study showed, the rate of child neglect during deployments nearly quadrupled and physical abuse nearly tripled.

“You have moms who aren’t sleeping, and the children aren’t sleeping,” Robichaux said. “It’s a lethal combination.”

Robichaux is cited in the study, published Aug. 1, 2007, in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study covered the period from Sept. 1, 2001, through Dec. 31, 2004, and included 1,858 parents in 1,771 Army families that had at least one substantiated incident of maltreatment.

The 2004 study has not been repeated, Robichaux said, but he’s confident that not much has changed.

The study included only families of enlisted soldiers, E-4 through E-9, as researchers determined the 49 families with an officer parent and a reported incident of maltreatment was too small a sample size to be statistically reliable.

However, the researchers noted in the JAMA article that further analysis suggested “there is not a difference in the reporting of child maltreatment for families of officers vs. enlisted soldiers.”

The study’s authors credited the Army for providing a range of preventative and support resources but said the increase in child maltreatment during combat deployments suggested a need for more and better services for parents on the home front.

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