Examination of Veteran Fathers' Parenting and Their Adolescent Children's Substance Use in the United States
BACKGROUND: Adolescent children of U.S. military veterans may be at increased risk for engaging in substance use; however, this has yet to be examined using nationally representative data. Parental involvement and communication are potential protective factors to target with prevention efforts, but veterans' parenting has not been studied in general, nonclinical populations.
OBJECTIVES: This study presents data on parenting characteristics among fathers who are veterans of the U.S. military and the substance use behaviors of their adolescent children.
METHODS: Data were analyzed from approximately 2,200 veteran fathers, 13,100 nonveteran fathers, and their children aged 12 to 17 who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2004 to 2013. Parenting characteristics and adolescent substance use were compared by fathers' veteran status.
RESULTS: Compared with nonveteran fathers, veteran fathers were less likely to have talked with their children about the dangers of substance use, were more likely to believe that their children used substances, and were just as likely to be parentally involved. Higher percentages of adolescent children of veterans than those of nonveterans engaged in tobacco use and nonmedical use of psychotherapeutic drugs. Parental involvement and father-child communication about the dangers of substance use did not explain differences in substance use among adolescents with veteran versus nonveteran fathers. Conclusions/Importance: Adolescent children of veterans appear to be a group in particular need of substance use prevention services. Parental involvement and father-child communication may be appropriate protective factors to address in prevention efforts.