Well-being and suicidal ideation of secondary school students from military families

J Adolesc Health. 2014 Jun;54(6):672-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.09.006. Epub 2013 Nov 17.


Background: The mental health of children is a primary public health concern; adolescents of military personnel may be at increased risk of experiencing poorer well-being overall and depressive symptoms specifically. These adolescents experience individual and intrafamilial stressors of parental deployment and reintegration, which are directly and indirectly associated with internalizing behaviors.

Purpose: The present study sought to better understand the influence of parental military connectedness and parental deployment on adolescent mental health.

Methods: Data from the 2011 California Healthy Kids Survey examined feeling sad or hopeless, suicidal ideation, well-being, and depressive symptoms by military connectedness in a subsample (n = 14,299) of seventh-, ninth-, and 11th-grade California adolescents. Cross-classification tables and multiple logistic regression analyses were used.

Results: More than 13% of the sample had a parent or sibling in the military. Those with military connections were more likely to report depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation. Controlling for grade, gender, and race/ethnicity, reporting any familial deployment compared with no deployments was associated with increasing odds of experiencing sadness or hopelessness, depressive symptoms, and suicidal ideation.

Conclusions: Findings emphasize the increased risk of mental health issues among youth with parents (and siblings) in the military. Although deployment-related mental health stressors are less likely during peace, during times of war there is a need for increased screening in primary care and school settings. Systematic referral systems and collaboration with community-based mental health centers will bolster screening and services.

Keywords: Adolescent; Depressive symptoms; Family; Military; Suicidal ideation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • California
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys / methods
  • Health Surveys / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Military Family / psychology*
  • Military Family / statistics & numerical data
  • Parents / psychology
  • Risk
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Students / psychology*
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicidal Ideation*