By all measures, men who had voluntarily served in the military after 1973 were more likely to have lived through a negative childhood experience.
For example, those with a post-1973 military background were twice as likely to have experienced various forms of childhood sexual abuse.
In contrast, almost no differences were seen when comparing non-military men with men whose military career unfolded pre-1973, when the draft mandated military service. The exception: drug use in their childhood home was actually significantly less common among pre-1973 military men relative to their non-military peers.
Among women, differences were not so apparent, regardless of whether they served before or after 1973. The exception: volunteer servicewomen were more likely to say they had been touched sexually as a child.
The study authors suggested that the findings might reflect an attraction to the military among men searching for a way out of a difficult situation.
Regardless, Blosnich said it remains to be seen whether the greater propensity of childhood trauma among male service members actually translates into long-term trouble down the road. In fact, he noted that "associations between adverse childhood experiences and adverse outcomes previously observed among the general public have not, as yet, been definitively established in military populations."
"Traditionally, those who serve in our nation's military have better health than those without comparable service history," he added. "[So] it is possible that the education, training, structure and fellowship of the military may help to buffer those negative early life experiences."
Christopher Wildeman, an associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University, pointed out some caveats in the findings.
"In terms of whether this all implies that somehow the military is staffed with so-called 'damaged goods,' I wo
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