Children of Military Personnel More Likely To Use Drugs and Have Trouble at School Interview with:
Kathrine Sullivan Ph.D. Candidate

University of Southern California
School of Social Work

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Military families and military-connected youth exhibit significant strengths; however, a sizeable proportion of these families appear to be struggling in the face of war-related stressors. Understanding the consequences of war is critical as a public health concern and because additional resources may be needed to support military families. This study used a large, normative, and geographically comprehensive dataset to determine whether military-connected youth are at risk of adverse outcomes, including substance use, victimization, and weapon-carrying, during wartime.  Results indicated that military-connected 7th, 9th and 11th grade students had greater odds of substance use, victimization, and weapon-carrying compared to non-military connected peers. Specifically, more military-connected students reported using alcohol (45 percent vs. 39 percent), being hit, kicked, slapped or pushed (36 percent vs. 27 percent) or bringing a gun to school (10 percent vs. 5 percent) than other students.  Children with parents or a caregiver in the armed forces were also much more likely to have used prescription medications (36 percent vs. 27 percent), brought a knife to school (15 percent vs. 9 percent), been in a fight (27 percent vs. 17 percent) or feared being beaten up (24 percent vs. 18 percent).

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: The most important thing we believe is that people in public schools and civilian communities need to know who and where military-connected kids are so they can support them with appropriate services. If you are able to provide resources and supports for these families, they do much better. This study combined with prior research suggests the need for locally-created interventions that support military and veteran families and students.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Through this and other research, we are starting to understand the need for creating supportive communities for military families and we can learn from schools and communities that have already done so.  For example, the Los Angeles County Unified School District, one of the largest districts in the country, started this term to collect veteran status on emergency cards and enrollment forms and is the first large school district to train/ provide resources to principals, PPS workers, and other staff, in an effort to support youth and families who have migrated to LA post military service. Other smaller districts around bases have also been stellar examples of ways to support military students. The Military Child Educational Coalition, Building Capacity Programs, and Department of Defense Community Partnership programs have been examples of efforts to strengthen civilian school and community settings to support more military and veteran children. The nations schools should follow these excellent examples. More funding and research need to go in to supporting and evaluating efforts like this in large cities and schools districts.


Substance Abuse and Other Adverse Outcomes for Military-Connected Youth in California


[wysija_form id=”5″] is not a forum for the exchange of personal medical information, advice or the promotion of self-destructive behavior (e.g., eating disorders, suicide). While you may freely discuss your troubles, you should not look to the Website for information or advice on such topics. Instead, we recommend that you talk in person with a trusted medical professional.

The information on is provided for educational purposes only, and is in no way intended to diagnose, cure, or treat any medical or other condition. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health and ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In addition to all other limitations and disclaimers in this agreement, service provider and its third party providers disclaim any liability or loss in connection with the content provided on this website.

Kathrine Sullivan Ph.D. Candidate (2015). Children of Military Personnel More Likely To Use Drugs and Have Trouble at School 

Last Updated on August 17, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD