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J Pediatr. 2007 Nov;151(5):482-7. Epub 2007 Sep 17.

Protective factors and suicide risk in adolescents with a history of sexual abuse.

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Healthy Youth Development Prevention Research Center, Division of Adolescent Health and Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA.



To test the hypothesis that certain protective factors will reduce the risk of suicide behaviors in youth who are sexually abused.


Survey data come from 83,731 students in the 6th, 9th, and 12th grades in Minnesota. Four childhood sexual abuse groups were created: a) no history of sexual abuse; b) abuse by non-family member; c) abuse by family member; and d) abuse by both. Dependent variables included suicidal ideation and attempts. Four protective factors included: family connectedness, teacher caring, other adult caring, and school safety. Logistic regression was used in detecting differences in suicide behaviors across the 4 childhood sexual abuse categories.


Four percent of students reported sexual abuse by a non-family member, 1.3% by a family member, and 1.4% by both. Although youth with a history of childhood sexual abuse were at increased risk for suicide behaviors compared with other youth, when protective factors were accounted for, the predicted probabilities of suicide behaviors for childhood sexual abuse youth were substantially reduced. Family connectedness was the strongest of the 4 protective factors.


Modifying select protective factors, particularly family connectedness, may reduce suicide risk in adolescents with childhood sexual abuse.

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