215 – Young children’s experiences of parental deployment within a defence family: Building research-based resources

Presentation - ECV2022-215

Young children’s experiences of parental deployment within a defence family: Building research-based resources 

Marg Rogers, University of New England, Australia (marg.rogers@une.edu.au)



Background: Children from Australian Defence Force families experience frequent and lengthy parent absences due to deployment and training exercises. Globally, research about how children experience and understand parental military deployment had been limited to secondary data from parents.

Aim: To address this gap, my PhD research, entitled ‘Young children’s experiences and understandings within an Australian Defence Force (ADF) family’, sought to privilege 2–5-year-old children’s voices. 

Method: Mosaic and narrative approaches were used to co-construct data and listen to young children’s voices. Data were collected with 11 families, representing 19 children, with six providing in-depth case studies. These families represented three geographical states and four defence bases. The researcher also listened to parents’ and educators’ voices as sources of knowledge, to assist with the interpretation of the children’s data. Thematic and narrative analysis was used to analyse the data, then a socio-ecological framework was applied. 

Results: Children’s experiences included: stressors and responses, family mobility, increased family stress and parental fatigue, family role flexibility, various communication tools, protective factors, family and meta-narratives, ritual, acculturation, development of coping strategies, and models for resilience. Alarmingly, the results showed a dearth of early childhood resources to build children’s ability to make sense of their experiences before starting school. The parents communicated how isolated and unsupported the lack of resources made them feel and early childhood educators reported difficulty adapting Australian resources developed for primary-school aged children. The parents and educators asked for young children’s eBooks, hard copy books, apps, and programs. 

Conclusions: The findings have acted as a catalyst to gain funding, co-create, and evaluate free, online, research-based early childhood resources (see https://ecdefenceprograms.com/) to support defence families and other researchers interested in the experiences of young children. 

Implications for children and families: You will learn about how parents from defence families requested resources to better support their vulnerable children.

Implications for practitioners: You will learn about how educators requested resources to better support these vulnerable families.

Funding: The Ian Potter Foundation, UNE, The Association of Graduates of Early Childhood Studies

Key words: children’s voices, families’ voices, wellbeing, communication, early literacy, education, health, vulnerable communities, qualitative methods, military families

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

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