Parent–Victim Agreement in Adolescent Suicide Research

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Objective: The necessary absence of the victim's report in psychological autopsy studies is likely to introduce a systematic reporting bias. The authors investigated the nature and extent of this bias by examining agreement between accounts of symptomatology given by adolescents who made a serious suicide attempt and their parents. Method: Fifty-two attempters younger than age 20 were matched individually on age, sex, and ethnicity to a sample of suicide completers in two previous investigations. A semistructured interview was used to assess symptoms for DSM-III disorders. Diagnoses were assigned using two distinct computer algorithms, based respectively on youth and parent informant reports. Kappa values were estimated for each diagnostic category and related symptoms. Results: Highest rates of parent-youth agreement were found for substance abuse and disruptive disorders. Rates of conduct disorder (nonaggressive) and major depression were reported less frequently by parents relative to their children. At the symptom level, parents less frequently reported Gets drunk and Frequency of drinking.Conclusions: Psychological autopsy studies of adolescent suicide are likely to underestimate the prevalence of psychiatric disorders in general and major depression and alcohol abuse in particular. These risk factors may be more predictive than previously thought.

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