The Association of Parentification Indicators With Substance Use Patterns Among Military-Connected Adolescents

Kathrine S. Sullivan, Gordon Capp, Tamika D. Gilreath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Military-connected youths are a vulnerable population exposed to a unique set of stressors, which may put them at increased risk for adverse mental and behavioral health outcomes, compared to their civilian counterparts. Among military-connected adolescents, emotional and instrumental parentification are mechanisms hypothesized to account for negative outcomes, including substance use. However, parentification may be protective in some cultures and has not been examined in the military population. Data were drawn from 1,441 7th-, 9th-, and 11th-graders who had a parent in the military and completed the 2013 California Healthy Kids Survey. Latent class analysis was used to examine patterns of instrumental parentification indicators among military-connected youths and associated patterns of substance use. Military-connected students in the high parentification class were significantly less likely to be in the frequent polysubstance using class (odds ratio 0.376, 95% confidence interval [0.180, 0.782]). Findings suggest that experiences of instrumental parentification, including having more responsibilities at home, being more independent, and being able to solve problems better than peers, may be protective. For military-connected youths, these skills, developed in the context of their families, may translate to better coping with other stressful situations. Professionals may be able to build on these strengths and develop adaptive coping strategies to support military-connected youths in managing the stressors of wartime military life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2023


  • latent class analysis
  • military families
  • parentification
  • substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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