Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Sandra P. Thomas

Committee Members

Nan M. Gaylord, Mary E. Gunther, Jennifer A. Morrow


The impact of parental deployment on military children has been studied in the context of war but seldom examined in peacetime missions. The experience of frequent separation from a parent has not been explored using qualitative methodology. An existential phenomenological approach was used to investigate military children’s perceptions of parents’ frequent nuclear missile base deployments. Eight audiorecorded interviews were conducted with children ages 8 to 12 years of age, where participants were asked what it was like for them with a parent deployed to a missile field three to five consecutive days each week. Although both men and women serve in the missile field, all children in this study were describing absence of their fathers from the home. Transcribed interviews were presented in the Phenomenology Research Group (PRG) at the University of Tennessee, which contributed to the rigor of the analysis. Contextualized by the special relationship between father and child, five themes that emerged from the data: 1) Missing Dad, 2) Coping with Dad’s Absence, 3) He’s Really Fun, 4) Anxiety: “I’m scared when he goes on alert”, and 5) Dad’s Really Important to the Family. Understanding challenges from the child’s perspective is important not only to health care providers caring for military children but also to other adults in the community who interact with children like teachers, school counselors, and church leaders, in order to assist the children with coping and provide resources to help meet their needs.

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