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Troubled childhoods may prompt men to volunteer for military service

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:18 p.m.

In the era of the all-volunteer military, men who served are more than twice as likely as those who never did to have been sexually abused as children and to have grown up amid domestic violence and substance abuse, a study has found.

The analysis showed the differences did not exist before 1973, when the draft was in effect.

The study, published on Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry, did not look at why men with difficult upbringings were drawn to the military, but other researchers said the camaraderie and the opportunity to relocate far from home were probably major factors.

The military can serve as a surrogate family, “a group that has ties that will last a lifetime,” said Glen Elder, a University of North Carolina sociologist who has studied people's motivations for enlisting.

The study relied on 2010 data from Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an extensive telephone survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 60,000 adults in 10 states and the District of Columbia answered demographic questions, including veteran status, and indicated which in a series of 11 “adverse childhood experiences” applied to them.

Among the men who served in the all-volunteer force, 43 percent reported emotional abuse, 34 percent said alcohol was abused at home, 27 percent were exposed to domestic violence and 11 percent had been touched sexually.

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