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A proportion of ex-military personnel who develop mental health and social problems end up in the Criminal Justice System. A government review called for better understanding of pathways to offending among ex-military personnel to improve services and reduce reoffending. We utilised data linkage with criminal records to examine the patterns of offending among military personnel after they leave service and the associated risk (including mental health and alcohol problems) and socio-economic protective factors.
Questionnaire data from a cohort study of 13 856 randomly selected UK military personnel were linked with national criminal records to examine changes in the rates of offending after leaving service.
All types of offending increased after leaving service, with violent offending being the most prevalent. Offending was predicted by mental health and alcohol problems: probable PTSD, symptoms of common mental disorder and aggressive behaviour (verbal, property and threatened or actual physical aggression). Reduced risk of offending was associated with post-service socio-economic factors: absence of debt, stable housing and relationship satisfaction. These factors were associated with a reduced risk of offending in the presence of mental health risk factors.
Ex-military personnel are more likely to commit violent offences after leaving service than other offence-types. Mental health and alcohol problems are associated with increased risk of post-service offending, and socio-economic stability is associated with reduced risk of offending among military veterans with these problems. Efforts to reduce post-service offending should encompass management of socio-economic risk factors as well as mental health.
Research into violence among military personnel has not differentiated between stranger- and family-directed violence. While military factors (combat exposure and post-deployment mental health problems) are risk factors for general violence, there has been limited research on their impact on violence within the family environment. This study aims to compare the prevalence of family-directed and stranger-directed violence among a deployed sample of UK military personnel and to explore risk factors associated with both family- and stranger-directed violence.
This study utilised data from a large cohort study which collected information by questionnaire from a representative sample of randomly selected deployed UK military personnel (n = 6711).
The prevalence of family violence immediately following return from deployment was 3.6% and 7.8% for stranger violence. Family violence was significantly associated with having left service, while stranger violence was associated with younger age, male gender, being single, having a history of antisocial behaviour as well as having left service. Deployment in a combat role was significantly associated with both family and stranger violence after adjustment for confounders [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 1.92 (1.25–2.94), p = 0.003 and aOR = 1.77 (1.31–2.40), p < 0.001, respectively], as was the presence of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, common mental disorders and aggression.
Exposure to combat and post-deployment mental health problems are risk factors for violence both inside and outside the family environment and should be considered in violence reduction programmes for military personnel. Further research using a validated measurement tool for family violence would improve comparability with other research.
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