Kids From Military Families Have Higher Risk of Substance Abuse

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Children of military families are at a higher risk of substance abuse, violence and carrying weapons.
Children of military families are at a higher risk of substance abuse, violence and carrying weapons.

HealthDay News — Military-connected youth are at increased risk for adverse outcomes during wartime, indicating poorer socioemotional adjustment than their nonmilitary peers, according to a study published online in JAMA Pediatrics.

Kathrine Sullivan, MSW, from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and colleagues analyzed a comprehensive administrative data set (2013 California Healthy Kids Survey) to determine whether military-connected youth are at higher risk for adverse socioemotional outcomes during wartime. Participants included 54,679 military-connected and 634,034 nonmilitary-connected secondary school students from public civilian schools.

The researchers found that military-connected youth had greater odds of substance use, experience of physical violence and nonphysical harassment, and weapon carrying. Specifically, military-connected youth had 73% greater odds of recent other drug use (e.g., cocaine and lysergic acid diethylamide; odds ratio, 1.73) and twice the odds of bringing a gun to school (odds ratio, 2.20), compared with nonmilitary-connected peers.

Military-connected children also had significantly higher odds of being threatened with a weapon or being in a fight, compared to their civilian counterparts (odds ratios, 1.87 and 1.67, respectively).

"These findings suggest a need to identify and intervene with military-connected adolescents and reflect a larger concern regarding the well-being of military families during wartime," the authors write.


Sullivan K, et al. Substance Abuse and Other Adverse Outcomes for Military-Connected Youth in California. JAMA Pediatr. 2015; doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.1413.

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