Perceived Abuse and Neglect as Risk Factors for Suicidal Behavior in Adolescent Inpatients

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The aim of this study was to assess relative risk of histories of different types of abuse (sexual, physical, and emotional) and neglect (physical and emotional) for suicidal behavior (attempts, ideation, and self-mutilation) in psychiatrically hospitalized adolescents. Seventy-one adolescent inpatients (34 boys, 37 girls) completed self-report measures of abuse and neglect, current suicidal ideation, and lifetime suicide and self-mutilation attempts. The prevalence of sexual and physical abuse was 37.5% and 43.7%, respectively, with 31.3% and 61% of youngsters reporting emotional and physical neglect. Fifty-one percent of youngsters had made suicide attempts, and 39% had self-mutilated. Suicide attempters were significantly more likely to be female, Latino, to report sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, and to endorse emotional neglect. In multivariate analyses, female gender, sexual abuse, and emotional neglect remained significant predictors of self-mutilation and suicidal ideation. Female gender and sexual abuse remained significant predictors of suicide attempts. These findings suggest that emotional neglect is an important and deleterious component of maltreatment experiences and may be a more powerful predictor of suicidal behavior in hospitalized adolescents than physical abuse, emotional abuse, and physical neglect.

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