Much research on children in military families has taken a deficit approach—that is, it has portrayed these children as a population susceptible to psychological damage from the hardships of military life, such as frequent moves and separation from their parents during deployment. But M. Ann Easterbrooks, Kenneth Ginsburg, and Richard M. Lerner observe that most military children turn out just fine. They argue that, to better serve military children, we must understand the sources of strength that help them cope with adversity and thrive. In other words, we must understand their resilience.
The authors stress that resilience is not a personal trait but a product of the relationships between children and the people and resources around them. In this sense, military life, along with its hardships, offers many sources for resilience—for example, a strong sense of belonging to a supportive community with a shared mission and values. Similarly, children whose parents are deployed may build their self-confidence by taking on new responsibilities in the family, and moving offers opportunities for adventure and personal growth.
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drew more and more service members into combat, the military and civilian groups alike rolled out dozens of programs aimed at boosting military children’s resilience. Although the authors applaud this effort, they also note that few of these programs have been based on scientific evidence of what works, and few have been rigorously evaluated for their effectiveness. They call for a program of sustained research to boost our understanding of military children’s resilience.