"We are seeing the shadows of a long war." -- Professor of education/urban social development at USC Ron Avi Astor, quoted this morning in the Los Angeles Times regarding the effect of multiple deployments on the children of military families.
November 18, 2013: The results of a survey of 14, 299 California high school students, conducted by the University of Southern California's School of Social Work were published this morning in the Journal of Adolescent Health. As covered by Alan Zarembo of the Los Angeles Times, the survey's authors found that among the "more than 1,900 [teenagers] with parents or siblings in the military [there is] a link between a family member's deployment and a variety of mental health problems, including 'suicidal ideation,' or thoughts about suicide."
At left, USC School of Social Work professor, Julie Cederbaum, lead author of the study. "There's a cumulative effect of deployment," she reports.
[Emphases in the following excerpt are ours] ...Most research on the mental health of military children has focused on those who are already receiving treatment or attending special summer camps. Those kinds of studies don't allow experts to estimate the rates of psychiatric problems among all military children or make comparisons with other children.
So the USC team tried a different approach. The researchers piggybacked on a statewide health survey of public school students in 2011 and added questions for seventh-, ninth- and 11th-graders in four Southern California school districts — all near military bases — about the military status and deployment histories of their parents and siblings.
Students with close relatives serving in the military were no more likely to suffer mental health problems than students with no relatives on active duty, the team found. The key factor was how many times a parent or sibling — currently serving or not — had been deployed during the previous decade...
A single deployment in the 10-year period raised ... rates to 35% [extended periods of feeling sad or hopeless] and 24% [symptoms of depression], respectively. [Youth with no history of family member deployments, both from military and nonmilitary families, had comparative numbers of 29% and 22%, respectively.] More than one deployment pushed [the numbers] even higher, to 38% and 28%. All of those changes were statistically significant, meaning they were too large to attribute to chance, according to the study.
The ninth- and 11th-graders who took the survey were also asked whether they had seriously considered suicide in the previous year. The researchers found that 18% of the teens whose relatives had never deployed answered yes, along with 23% of those whose relatives had been deployed once and 25% of those whose relatives had deployed more than once. Only the difference between 18% and 25% was large enough to be considered statistically significant...
The results have not yet been published, but they are worrisome, said Ron Avi Astor, at left. Astor is a professor of urbans social development in the USC School of Social Work; he is also a professor at USC's Rossier School of Education.
Among military children, Astor said, 21% reported having made a suicide plan and nearly 18% made an attempt. Nearly 6% said they had received medical treatment after an attempt.
The figures for children without parents or siblings in the military were 14%, 11% and 4%, respectively.
The researchers said they would soon publish another analysis showing that deployments of family members raise the likelihood that students will be involved in fights or carry weapons to school.