Associations between paternal PTSD or depression, adolescent mental health, and family functioning: A cross-sectional study of UK military families

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Abstract

Background: Relationships between paternal mental health, adolescent mental health, and family functioning have received limited attention in UK military populations. The aim of this secondary data analysis was to investigate whether post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression in military fathers was associated with mental health disorders in adolescent offspring and impaired family functioning.
Methods: In total, n=105 serving and ex-serving members of the UK Armed Forces, and n=137 of their adolescent offspring (aged 11 to 17 years), were included in this analysis. Data were collected online and via home visits, using validated questionnaires to assess mental health and family functioning.
Results: Families where fathers had probable PTSD or depression experienced more impaired general family functioning compared to families where the father did not have these conditions (unadjusted b=0.21, 95% CI=0.07 to 0.35, p=0.003), and particularly on the communication subscale of the Family Assessment Device. Probable paternal PTSD or depression was also associated with increased likelihood of adolescent mental health disorders (unadjusted OR=2.30, 95% CI=1.10 to 4.81, p=0.027), particularly internalising disorders such as depression or anxiety (unadjusted OR=2.21, 95% CI=1.04 to 4.71, p=0.040). The direction and strength of these associations did not substantially change after adjusting for sociodemographic and military covariates.
Conclusions: This study found evidence for associations between probable paternal PTSD or depression, poorer adolescent mental health, and poorer family functioning in military families. This highlights the importance of supporting the wellbeing of both military fathers and their adolescent offspring, and of supporting the whole family when parents are known to be struggling with their mental health.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Military, Veteran and Family Health
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 22 Jan 2024

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