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How does deployment affect teens from military families?

Elizabeth Jones

Thursday, November 21, 2013, 6:51:17 PM
How does deployment affect teens from military families?

Military families know the deployment of a family member is not an easy experience, but so far there has been little research on the subject - until now. A recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health shed some light on the effects deployment of a family member has on teens.

"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," Julie Cederbaum, a researcher at the University of Southern California and the study's co-author, said in a statement."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."

After analyzing the mental health records of more than 14,000 teenagers residing in California, 13% of which had a parent or sibling in the military, Cederbaum and her fellow researchers found that teens with a family member on deployment were 40 times more likely to experience feelings such as hopelessness and sadness. An astonishing 24% of teens with a deployed family member were more likely to contemplate suicide, while 15% were likely to experience depression.

The study also found teens that had more than one family member absent due to deployment had a much higher risk of depression and suicidal thoughts - about 41% of these teens had depressive symptoms, while 34% had suicide ideation. 

"We're seeing the shadows of a long war," Ron Astor, a researcher at USC, told The Los Angeles Times. 

In order to curb these high rates of sadness, depression and suicidal thoughts, the researchers suggested increased mental health screenings and support groups in school settings.

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