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J Affect Disord. 2012 Feb;136(3):377-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2011.11.019. Epub 2011 Dec 6.

Suicide and history of childhood trauma among street youth.

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Boston Medical Center, Department of Pediatrics, One Boston Medical Center Place, Boston, MA 02118, USA.



Street youth represent a marginalized population marked by early mortality and elevated risk for suicide. It is not known to what extent childhood abuse and neglect predispose to suicide in this difficult-to-study population. This study is among the first to examine the relationship between childhood trauma and subsequent attempted suicide during adolescence and young adulthood among street youth.


From October 2005 to November 2007, data were collected for the At Risk Youth Study (ARYS), a cohort of 495 street-recruited youth aged 14-26 in Vancouver, Canada. Self-reported attempted suicide in the preceding six months was examined in relation to childhood abuse and neglect, as measured by the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), using logistic regression.


Overall, 46 (9.3%) youth reported a suicide attempt during the preceding six months. Childhood physical and sexual abuse were highly prevalent, with 201 (40.6%) and 131 (26.5%) of youth reporting history of each, respectively. Increasing CTQ score was related to risk for suicide attempt despite adjustment for confounders (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 1.45 per standard deviation increase in score; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.08-1.91).


Use of snowball sampling may not have produced a truly random sample, and reliance on self-report may have resulted in underreporting of risk behaviors among participants. Moreover, use of cross-sectional data limits the degree to which temporality can be concluded from the results of this study alone.


There exists a strong and graded association between childhood trauma and subsequent attempted suicide among street youth, an otherwise 'hidden' population. There is a need for effective interventions that not only prevent maltreatment of children but also aid youth at increased risk for suicide given prior history of trauma.

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