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What Is a Military Brat?

Most people have heard the term “military brat” and likely think that they know what it means. However, the origin and meaning behind the term may surprise you. So, what is a military brat?

As most people know, a military brat is the child of a member of the military. The term is also typically used to refer to children that grow up on military bases. It is also an old term. People have likely referred to military children as military brats for over 100 years.

What Is the Meaning of a Military Brat?

Historians and linguists have several theories for the origins of the term “military brat.” A popular theory suggests that it came from an acronym for British Regiment Attached Traveler (BRAT).

The British Army referred to the families of military members who traveled with the regiment as British Regiment Attached Travelers. The term was originally used to refer to spouses and children but evolved to become a term for military children.

The BRAT theory first appeared in a book published in 1921. However, historians have not verified the story.

The word “brat” was originally a slang term in England in the 1500s. Brat was a word for a beggar’s child. “Bratt” is also an old English word for “ragged garment”. As beggars’ children often wore ragged garments, the word brat may have derived from the word Bratt.

References to Army Brats appear as early as 1942. The word “brat” also appeared in a 1707 song about the military called “The Recruiting Officer.” The song referred to the families of soldiers that lived outside the barracks as “brats and wives.”

Some historians believe that the term military brat may come from a contraction of the words Barrack and Rat. Barrack rat was a slang term used in the UK in the 1700s to refer to children who lived in Army barracks.

Is Military Brat a Derogatory Term?

Many articles and surveys have found that military brats consider it a badge of honor or an endearing phrase. Most dependents of military families do not consider the phrase derogatory and have even created a backronym:

  • Military
  • Born
  • Raised
  • And
  • Trained

Most children who meet the criteria for a military brat do not find the term disrespectful. However, individuals without connections to the military should proceed with caution when using the phrase. While most military children are unlikely to be offended, some may not enjoy hearing the term from regular citizens.

Where Do Military Brats Live?

Military brats typically live on base. Many military installations accommodate families and civilian employees by offering housing and modern amenities.

Large military bases often have schools, shopping, restaurants, community centers, and access to various recreational activities. These bases resemble small communities with a mixture of residents.

For example, Fort Bragg is the world’s largest military base. It houses over 260,000 people, but only 54,000 are active service members. The base covers over 254 square miles and includes 11 schools serving students from pre-K to 8th grade.

How Often Do Military Brats Move?

According to the United Service Organizations (USO), military families move an average of every two to three years. Some families move more frequently.

By the time a military child reaches the age of 12, they may have moved up to 10 times and changed schools up to 9 times by the time they graduate high school. Military children frequently need to start over at new schools, which adds to the challenges of growing up in the military.

To minimize the difficulty of growing up on military bases, families are often given access to various support services and community programs. However, despite the challenges, military children often have higher achievement scores on standardized tests and lower delinquency rates compared to civilian children.

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What Countries Use the Term Military Brat?

The term military brat is used in a variety of military cultures. People use the term when talking about military children in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Pakistan.

In Canada, military brats may also be called Base Brats. In India, military brats may also be called Cantonment Kids or Fauji Brats. A cantonment is a temporary military garrison or camp. Fauji means soldier in Hindi, Sindhi, and Urdu languages.

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