Send to

Choose Destination
Child Abuse Negl. 2004 May;28(5):491-503.

Sexual abuse and suicidality: gender differences in a large community sample of adolescents.

Author information

Department of Psychiatry, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld., Australia.



A cross-sectional study of gender specific relationships between self-reported child sexual abuse and suicidality in a community sample of adolescents.


Students aged 14 years on average (N = 2,485) from 27 schools in South Australia completed a questionnaire including items on sexual abuse and suicidality, and measures of depression (Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale), hopelessness (Beck Hopelessness Scale), and family functioning (McMaster Family Assessment Device General Functioning Subscale). Data analysis included logistic regression.


In boys, self-report sexual abuse is strongly and independently associated with suicidal thoughts, plans, threats, deliberate self-injury, and suicide attempts, after controlling for current levels of depression, hopelessness, and family dysfunction. In girls, the relationship between sexual abuse and suicidality is mediated fully by depression, hopelessness, and family dysfunction. Girls who report current high distress about sexual abuse, however, have a threefold increased risk of suicidal thoughts and plans, compared to non-abused girls. Boys who report current high distress about sexual abuse have 10-fold increased risk for suicidal plans and threats, and 15-fold increased risk for suicide attempts, compared to non-abused boys. Fifty-five percent (n = 15) of sexually abused boys attempted suicide versus 29% (n = 17) girls.


A history of sexual abuse should alert clinicians, professionals and carers in contact with adolescents, to greatly increased risks of suicidal behavior and attempts in boys, even in the absence of depression and hopelessness. Distress following sexual abuse, along with depression and hopelessness indicate increased risk of suicidal behavior in girls, as well as boys.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center