Resourcing and supporting young children's understandings of parental deployment within an Australian Defence Force (ADF) family

Year: 2017

Author: Rogers-Barer, Marg

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Young children from military families have been marginalised in Australian research (Rogers-Baber, 2017). To date, research with Australian Defence Force (ADF) families has been scarce (Siebler, 2009; McFarlane, 2009) and has generally relied on secondary data from parents, such as the Timore-Leste family study (McGuire et al, 2012). Newer studies are exploring school student's experiences with school and ADF support (see MacDonald (2016), but young children's own experiences within their family context and early childhood service have not been researched until now. This PhD study has explored 2.5 to 5 year old children's experiences and understanding of parental deployment within an ADF family. By employing a Mosaic research, adapted from the framework of Clarke & Moss (2011), the study privileged children's voices, while also listening to the voice of their educators and their non-ADF parent. The findings presented in this paper focus on the understandings that the children expressed and were analysed using a thematic approach. The application of Bronfenbrenner's (1986) socio-ecological model to these themes revealed that children's understandings of parental deployment change over time, are influenced by acculturation and narrative (Baber, Fussell and Porter, 2015), are reinforced and influenced within the microsystem and are influenced by the children's development. Furthermore, their understandings are strongly linked to time and place, are influenced by digital communication technology, are often underestimated by parents and notably, influence the child's ability to manage family transitions. Importantly, their understandings can be enhanced with the use of age and culturally appropriate resources, discussions and activities that formed part of the research activities. The study revealed a lack of quality resources for this age group (Baber, 2016), increasing the difficulty for military parents to prepare children for upcoming deployments and address issues as they emerge during the deployment cycle. Successive governments have utilised metanarratives to win favour with voters during national days such as Anzac and Remembrance days (Lake, 2010) and spent vast sums of money to commemorate anniversaries of battles (Brissenden, 2014). Conversely, very little money and time is spent adequately resourcing and supporting current service personnel's children and the parents, family workers and educators who support them. This paper concludes by offering suggestions from educators, parents and the researcher on possible solutions to address this gap.