Having a parent deployed in the military may increase the risk of substance abuse in teens and preteens, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the University of Iowa evaluated data from 2010, when 1.2 million American children had a parent in the active duty military, Reuters reports. The study included 1,700 children of deployed parents, and 57,000 children from non-military families. The study focused on children in sixth, eighth and 11th grades.
Among sixth graders, 12 percent who had a deployed parent had tried alcohol, and 7 percent had consumed five or more drinks in one sitting. In contrast, 4 percent of sixth graders in non-military families had tried alcohol, and 2 percent had five or more drinks in one sitting.
The researchers found 29 percent of 11th graders in military families engaged in binge drinking in the past month and 15 percent had smoked marijuana, compared with 22 percent and 10 percent of their peers in non-military families.
Among preteens and teens of deployed parents, 15 percent had misused prescription drugs in the past month, compared with 7 percent of children in non-military families, the researchers report in the journal Addiction.
“We worry a lot about the service men and women and we sometimes forget that they are not the only ones put into harm’s way by deployment—their families are affected, too,” senior study author Stephan Arndt, PhD, said in a news release. “Our findings suggest we need to provide these families with more community support.”
A study published earlier this year had similar findings. That study found having a parent or sibling who has been deployed in the military increases the risk of drug and alcohol use among middle and high school students.