Teens from military families suffer from deployments

November 20, 2013 by Katherine Kahn
Teens from military families suffer from deployments

It is widely known that deployment is stressful for military families, including their children. A new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health finds that teens from military families are more likely to feel sad or hopeless, have thoughts about suicide and symptoms of depression than teens of civilian families.

"We've been in the longest war in recent history with increased numbers of individuals experiencing combat and being deployed for longer periods of time— and multiple times," says study co-author Julie Cederbaum, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Southern California. "We are logically thinking about the adult that is being deployed, but we're not talking enough about the kids left behind and how they might manage the military experience of their parent."

To study the relationship between military connections and adolescent mental health, Cederbaum and colleagues reviewed the mental health data of over 14,000 California in the 7th, 9th and 11th grades from the 2011 California Healthy Kids Survey.

More than 13 percent of the teens surveyed had a parent or sibling in the military. Teens who had experienced just one deployment of a parent or sibling were 40 percent more likely to feel sad or hopeless, 24 percent more likely to have suicidal thoughts and 15 percent more likely to be depressed than teens that did not have military connections.

"You see an even bigger shift with two or more deployments," Cederbaum says. "These kids were 56 percent more likely to experience feelings of sadness or hopelessness, 34 percent to have thought about suicide and 41 percent more likely to experience depressive symptoms."

Anita Chandra, Ph.D., a researcher at the RAND Corporation who has extensively studied military families says that there are many important factors that influence the mental health of teens with military connections, including the teens' age, the total number of months a parent is deployed and whether the parent was deployed into combat. Reintegration—when a parent returns home—can be an emotionally difficult time for military families, as well.

Additionally, Chandra notes, not all mental health findings of teens with military connections are negative. "We also know that kids in these families have exhibited a lot of rebound and recovery from deployment stress and a lot of resilience."

Even though the Iraq war ended in 2011 and American troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, the mental health of children in military families is likely to remain an important issue.

"While many deployed service members return home with minimal reintegration issues, we know that a fair number of folks coming back from deployment aren't doing particularly well," says Cederbaum. "Their children may now be in a home where there's potential traumatic brain injury, mental distress, or substance misuse. That service member or veteran is going through an adjustment and the family has to readjust as well."

Increasing screenings in pediatric and school settings and creating a safe environment for teens of to talk about their experiences and feel supported are ways to help identify and reach at-risk youth, Cederbaum says.

Explore further: Military families may need help with mental health

More information: Cederbaum JA, Gilreath TD, Benbenishty R, et al. Well-being and suicidal ideation of secondary school students from military families. J Adol Health, 2013.

Related Stories

Military families may need help with mental health

May 27, 2013
(HealthDay)—A leading pediatricians' group is highlighting the plight of children in military families in a new report.

Children and siblings of deployed military more likely to use drugs

January 18, 2013
Youth with a deployed military parent or sibling use drugs and alcohol at a higher rate than their peers, finds a new study in American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Soldiers and families can suffer negative effects from modern communication technologies

March 18, 2013
As recently as the Vietnam and Korean wars, soldiers' families commonly had to wait months to receive word from family members on the front lines. Now, cell phones and the internet allow deployed soldiers and their families ...

Adolescent boys among those most affected by Washington state parental military deployment

July 21, 2011
In 2007, nearly two million children in the United States had at least one parent serving in the military. Military families and children, in particular, suffer from mental health problems related to long deployments.

Violence more common among kids of combat veterans

October 31, 2011
(AP) -- A new study suggests that when parents are deployed in the military, their children are more than twice as likely to carry a weapon, join a gang or be involved in fights.

Recommended for you

Many kinds of happiness promote better health, study finds

July 21, 2017
A new study links the capacity to feel a variety of upbeat emotions to better health.

Study examines effects of stopping psychiatric medication

July 20, 2017
Despite numerous obstacles and severe withdrawal effects, long-term users of psychiatric drugs can stop taking them if they choose, and mental health care professionals could be more helpful to such individuals, according ...

Study finds gene variant increases risk for depression

July 20, 2017
A University of Central Florida study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?

July 20, 2017
In one of Aesop's famous fables, we are introduced to the grasshopper and the ant, whose decisions about how to spend their time affect their lives and future. The jovial grasshopper has a blast all summer singing and playing, ...

Perceiving oneself as less physically active than peers is linked to a shorter lifespan

July 20, 2017
Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about equally active as other people your age?

Old antibiotic could form new depression treatment

July 19, 2017
An antibiotic used mostly to treat acne has been found to improve the quality of life for people with major depression, in a world-first clinical trial conducted at Deakin University.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.