STUDY: Kids Of Combat Vets More Prone To Violence

New research shows that children of parents in the military are more than twice as likely to carry a weapon, join a gang, or be involved in fights.


When parents ship off to war, their kids back home become more violent - girls as well as boys. That's the apparent message of new research showing that children of parents in the military are more than twice as likely to carry a weapon, join a gang, or be involved in fights.

"This study raises serious concerns about an under-recognized consequence of war," said Sarah Reed, who led the research of military families in Washington state.

Last year, nearly 2 million U.S. children had at least one parent in the military. Deployment can hurt a family in several ways. There's stress while that parent is overseas and in danger, as the remaining parent has to shoulder more responsibility and family roles shift. There can also be challenges after deployed parents return, especially if they were injured physically or psychologically.

The new study is considered the first of its kind to focus on those affected by deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. It's unique in that it looked at a statewide swath of the population in comparing the behavior of kids in military families to children in non-military families.

The study, to be presented Monday at a public health conference in Washington, D.C., was based on a 2008 questionnaire survey of about 10,000 students in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades in Washington. That state has the sixth-largest active duty population in the nation.

About 550 of surveyed children said they had a parent deployed to a combat zone in the previous six years.

The study tried to account for differences in educational background and other issues between military families and the general population that might skew the results.

Even accounting for such differences, the researchers found that high school-age daughters of deployed parents were almost three times more likely than civilian girls to be in a gang or get into a fight. They were more than twice as likely to carry a weapon to school. There were similar increases among boys of deployed families when compared to civilians.

To be sure, such behavior in boys is more common - the rate of boys from deployed families involved in such violent behaviors was twice as high as for girls in deployed families. But experts say the findings contradict the traditional view that girls under stress exhibit "internalizing" behaviors, like becoming depressed or thinking about suicide, while boys are the ones who "externalize" through violent behavior

The new research may be a wake-up call for health professionals who deal with military families, one expert suggested.

"Maybe if we make assumptions about children, we may overlook other ways they may be suffering," said Dr. Gregory Gorman, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.

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  • by Ed on Nov 2, 2011 at 12:34 PM
    Destroying the family is a goal of world government. Use the military to rearrange the globe and sell it with fear and patriotism. The deteriorating family will help rearrange america. Gloria Steinem wrote about her role (and the CIA's) in thefeminist movement that had nothing to do with a woman's rights. More taxation and the end of the family unit is what it was about.
  • by Jerry on Oct 31, 2011 at 03:38 PM
    Anyone surprised by this??
  • by KidsFirst Location: Colorado Springs on Oct 31, 2011 at 02:11 PM
    Hmmm. Just a thought. Maybe the military, all military branches needs to consider how they use to do tours for active duty personnel? Growing up in this military town, most military were here for at least a three to four year time frame. Of course, back in the OLD DAYS women did not serve in the many roles of the military as they do now; pros and cons on both issues. Our children all over are suffering from the effects of either one or more parents being gone during their childhood. This is just not a military issue; it is one for everyone. It seems that we have a generation of young adults, who are parents, and do not have a clue of what it takes to parent. As a parent, your personal life, desires, and wants are put on hold to help your child or children with the things they need to grow and mature into bright outstanding young adults. I see way too many parents wanting what they want to do; their time now! Kids needs at least one functioning, common sense adult to bring them up!
  • by mich on Oct 31, 2011 at 02:06 PM
    You want the truth as to why these kids become like this? OK, here it is, dad or mom goes to war for 12 left behind either works long hours and the kid is left with no one to really care for them or the mom is so stressed with the husband away, marital issues that she can't deal with the's not rocket science people. Look at kids who are raised by single parents and the stats would match closely. military kids have a lot more to deal with then your average kid, the NEED a stable enviroment and a full time parent when the other parent is deployed. I'm a military spouse have been for 20 years and I see it all the time. I stayed home with my kids, they have no issues at all, never have.
  • by Ralph on Oct 31, 2011 at 01:23 PM
    So you say freedom isn't free? America is paying in ways it never thought of. Maybe freedom is nothing left to lose.
  • by Anonymous on Oct 31, 2011 at 01:01 PM
    I don't think this has anything to do with the parent being deployed and everything to do with the parent that remains behind. We lived on base for many years and found that military kids do no have any discipline, allowed to run rampant through base, through peoples yards and HOUSES without any regard to their own personal safety or others privacy. We even had kids peeking in the windows. Now we don't live on base but live in a development that may as well be "base housing" and the kids are exactly the same. They have lazy fat mothers who don't care what their kids are doing.
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