Intergenerational consequences of military service: Impacts of the Vietnam War on mental health and relationships of adult offspring

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

The effects of military deployment on the mental health of veterans have been investigated extensively, but relatively few studies had examined how it affects their children. In this study, we investigate the long-term, intergenerational effects of parental deployment by studying mental health and relationship outcomes of the adult children of veterans of the Vietnam War. We use a large-scale multigenerational survey and a case-control design to compare mental health and relationship outcomes of men and women whose fathers were deployed to the Vietnam War to the children of comparable Vietnam-era personnel - men who also served in the Australian army during the Vietnam War (but who were not deployed to it). In contrast to prior studies, our analyses adjust for the non-random deployment of military personnel using propensity score analyses based on an extensive list of individual and family characteristics.

The results provide some of the most robust estimates of whether the adverse mental health and relationship consequences of modern warfare also extend to the families of those who serve long after they return from war. Given the high proportion of parents among the 2 million and more military personnel deployed to recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, our results also provide some insights into the potential long-term ramifications of recent military engagements in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Collaborators: Dr Walter Forrest and Dr Galina Daraganova.