A recent U.S. study shows that teens that have parents or caregivers in the military may be more likely to smoke, drink, and carry guns than other kids.
According to Reuters, researchers also found that adolescents that have close ties to the military are more likely to be victims of physical violence and harassment.
Kathrine Sullivan, the lead author of the study, wrote in an email to Reuters that “We believe this is partly due to ongoing stressors related to war, deployments, frequent moves, being bullied, and being involved in risky peer groups.”
The study analyzed survey data collected in 2013 from nearly 690,000 California public school students in grades 7 through 11.
The group of children surveyed had roughly the same number of boys and girls, and close to 8 percent of the children surveyed had either parents or caregivers in the military. A little more than half of those children were Latino, and about 21 percent were white.
More than half of the students that were surveyed reported experiencing physical violence or harassment, and approximately one in 10 kids said they had brought a weapon to school.
The study found that military kids, however, were more than twice as likely to carry guns while at school and 81 percent more likely to take knives to school. Military kids also had higher odds of being threatened with a weapon.
When it came to substance abuse, things looked worse for military kids. The study found that they were 45 to 73 percent more likely than other children to smoke cigarettes, marijuana, drink alcohol, and abuse prescription drugs.
One thing the study left out is the socioeconomic status of the children that were surveyed. This makes it difficult to determine the extent that other factors like poverty and family structure influenced responses.
According to Dr. Robert Frenck, a retired Navy pediatrician who wasn’t involved in the study, “Socioeconomic status is a major factor, and I think children from low-income, single parent households are in more need of extra support than other kids, whether or not they have a parent in the military.”
Stephan Arndt, the director of a research group on substance abuse at the University of Iowa, said that the deployment of a parent and living arrangements during this period may be the biggest factor influencing whether they engage in unhealthy behaviors.