Increased risk of alcohol and drug use among children from deployed military families

Addiction. 2013 Aug;108(8):1418-25. doi: 10.1111/add.12161. Epub 2013 Mar 28.


Aims: To examine the association between military deployment of a parent and use of alcohol and drugs among children of deployed military personnel.

Design: Observational and cross-sectional study.

Setting: Data from the USA 2010 Iowa Youth Survey, a statewide survey of 6th, 8th and 11th graders, were analyzed during 2011.

Participants: Of all 6th-, 8th- and 11th-grade students enrolled in Iowa in 2010, 69% (n = 78 240) completed the survey.

Measurements: Ever drink more than a few sips of alcohol and past 30-day: binge drinking, marijuana consumption, other illegal drug use and prescription drug misuse.

Findings: The rates of alcohol use [risk difference (RD) = 7.85, 99.91% confidence interval (CI) = 4.44-11.26], binge drinking (RD = 8.02, 99.91% CI = 4.91-11.13), marijuana use (RD = 5.30, 99.91% CI = 2.83-7.77), other illegal drug use (RD = 7.10, 99.91% CI = 4.63-9.56) and prescription drug misuse (RD = 8.58, 99.91% CI = 5.64-11.51) are greater for children of currently or recently deployed parents than for children of parents who are not in the military. The magnitude of the effects is consistent across 6th, 8th and 11th grades. Disrupted living arrangements further accentuate increased substance use, with the largest effect seen in children with a deployed parent who was not living with a parent or relative.

Conclusions: Children of deployed military personnel should be considered at higher risk for substance use than children of non-military citizens.

Keywords: Alcohol use; Iowa youth survey; deployment effect; drug use; military children; military families; substance use.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iowa
  • Male
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Parents
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*