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Military Kids: Deployment, PCS, and Report Cards

By Josh Gilliam - 

In April 2006, West Point faculty member David Lyle published an important article in the Journal of Labor Economics titled: “Using Military Deployments and Job Assessments to Estimate the Effect of Parental Absences and Household Relocations on Children’s Academic Performance.” Whew! That was a mouthful. Basically, he looked into the impact of army PCSs and deployments on children’s test scores. In this post I try to make the author’s findings assessable to folks who do not have time to decode academic journals.

Some studies have found that moving hurts a child’s academic performance.[1] Other studies have found that such moves broaden a kid’s worldview and therefore enhanced his classroom performance.[2] This study observes over 13,000 military children from ages 6-19 to learn the truth.

The findings… (drum roll) … deployments and military moves appear to have a small adverse effect on test scores. Here are the major findings:

  • The average negative decline in test scores – across all groups – is about 2%.
  • Children of Officers perform twice as poorly during deployments (relative to their non-deployment scores).
  • Test scores decrease as deployment length increases. Those with parents who deploy for 1-6 months have a 0.63% decrease in scores. Those deployed more than six months (over a four-year time period) suffer an average drop of 1.5% in scores.
  • Kids whose mother deploys suffer a 5.07% decline in scores (much greater impact than deployed Fathers). But since this sample size is relatively small, this is only true (statistically) in deployments longer then six months.
  • Deployments have larger adverse impacts on elementary school children (relative to those in high school).
  • Children who have PCS’d more than five times score 1.5% less than those who have moved less than three times.
  • There is no negative effect of military moves on officers’ children.

Most military parents will not be comforted by the relative small impact reported. If you are anything like me, you will be looking for ways to minimize or – better yet – eliminate these effects.  Military Clan exists to help us do just that.

We believe that these negative effects can be mitigated or eliminated by creating a stronger connection with the deployed parent. Our blog, podcast (forthcoming), and products are aimed at giving parents tools to build STRONG. MILITARY. KIDS. We can do it!


[1] U.S. General Accounting Office. 1994. Elementary school children: Many change schools frequently, harming their education. GAO/HEHHS-94-45, 1–55. Washington, DC: Health, Education, and Human Services Division. 

[2] Piaget, Jean. 1977. Moral judgment: Children invent the social contract. In The essential Piaget , ed. H. Gruber and J. Jacques Vone`che. New York.

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