"Looking at the Iowa Youth Survey, we discovered we were right in regard to our idea that parental deployment would increase the risk for substance use behaviors in children. In fact, the numbers suggested we were a lot more right than we wanted to be," Arndt says.
"For example, sixth-graders in non-military families had binge drinking rates of about 2 percent. That jumps up to about 7 percent for the children of deployed or recently returned parents a three-to-four-fold increase in the raw percentage."
The study showed that rates for drinking alcohol in the past 30 days were 7 to 9 percentage points higher for children of deployed or recently returned parents across all grades, while rates for binge drinking (having had five or more drinks of alcohol in a row) were 5 to 8 percentage points higher for children of deployed parents across all grades. Marijuana use was also higher in children of deployed parents, but the difference in risk was larger for older students; for sixth-grade students the risk difference was almost 2 percentage points, for 11th-grade students it was almost 5 percentage points higher.
Living arrangements matter too
A second important and unexpected finding was the relationship between parental deployment, disruption of children's living arrangements, and increased risk of substance use.
"When at least one parent is deployed, there is a measurable percentage of children who are not living with their natural parents," Arndt says. "Some of these children go to live with a relative, but some go outside of the family, and that change in these children's living arrangements grossly affected their risk of binge drinking and marijuana use."
The study found that for children who were not living with a parent or rela
|Contact: Jennifer Brown|
University of Iowa Health Care