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

Julie A. Cederbaum, Tamika D. Gilreath, Rami Benbenishty, Ron A. Astor, Diana Pineda, Kris T. Depedro, Monica C. Esqueda, Hazel Atuel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)672-677
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding Source: This work was partially supported by Department of Defense Education Activity Grant HE1254-10-1-0041.


  • Adolescent
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Family
  • Military
  • Suicidal ideation


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