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Am J Psychiatry. 1992 Jan;149(1):45-51.

The relationship between adolescent suicidal behavior and life events in childhood and adolescence.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands.



Although the relationship between experience of problematic life events and adolescent suicidal behavior has frequently been recognized during the past decade, few studies of life events have been initiated that discriminated between adolescent suicide attempters and depressed adolescents. Therefore, the authors compared adolescent suicide attempters with both depressed and nondepressed adolescents who never attempted suicide with respect to life events that happened in two periods: childhood (defined as the period up to age 12 years) and adolescence (age 12 and older).


Using a semistructured interview, the authors gathered life event data about childhood and adolescence from three groups of adolescents: 48 suicide attempters, 66 depressed adolescents who had never made a suicide attempt, and 43 nondepressed adolescents who had never made a suicide attempt.


The group of adolescents who attempted suicide differed from both of the other groups in that they had experienced more turmoil in their families, starting in childhood and not stabilizing during adolescence. During adolescence, they were more often sexually abused. During the last year before the attempt, further social instability, such as changes in residence and having to repeat a class, occurred.


For suicidal adolescents, the suicide attempt seems embedded not just in the problems every adolescent has to deal with but in greater turmoil in their families, rooted in childhood and not stabilizing during adolescence, in combination with traumatic events during adolescence and social instability in the year preceding the attempt.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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