Young Adults’ Reflections on Being the Child of a Veteran
: A Narrative Inquiry to Inform Educational Psychology Practice

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Educational Psychology (DEdPsy)


Approximately 14,000 service men and women leave the UK Armed Forces each year and return to civilian life (Nicholls, 2019). This group of people who have served, but are no longer serving, in the British military can be described as veterans. The children of veterans are a hidden population, who are not monitored or recorded by the British government, and whose needs and experiences remain largely under researched. This study employed a qualitative, three-phase design to explore the experiences of the children of veterans and examine the possible role of Educational Psychologists (EPs) in relation to this group. A Narrative Inquiry was conducted with four young adults, aged between 18 and 25, who had experienced a parent leaving the military. These narrative accounts were analysed using the Listening Guide (Brown & Gilligan, 1993) and revealed complex experiences of transition, belonging and identity. These findings suggest that the children of veterans may move in and out of vulnerability according to their family circumstances. The views and experiences of EPs were explored using an online survey and a focus group. Findings of these two research phases suggest a perceived lack of experience, knowledge, and confidence regarding the children of veterans. Many of those EPs expressed a desire for further training to improve practice in relation to this group of children. The findings from all three phases of the research suggest that the children of veterans are a distinct group of children with needs that differ from those of their civilian and military counterparts. The likelihood of their experiencing some challenge due to their parents leaving the military suggests that there is likely to be a role for EPs in supporting the children of veterans at times of vulnerability. Several recommendations for practice have been made at profession, service, and individual level. These include training, awareness raising and a consideration of parental military service during communication with the family and subsequent hypothesising.
Date of Award26 Nov 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorJak L Lee (Supervisor) & David W F Abbott (Supervisor)


  • Veterans
  • Ex-Forces
  • Ex-Service
  • Young Adults
  • Educational Psychology
  • Children of veterans

Cite this