To identify the independent psychosocial and risk behavior correlates of suicidal ideation and attempts.
The relationships between suicidal ideation or attempts and family environment, subject characteristics, and various risk behaviors were examined among 1,285 randomly selected children and adolescents, aged 9 through 17 years, of whom 42 (3.3%) had attempted suicide and 67 (5.2%) had expressed suicidal ideation only. The youths and their parents were enumerated and interviewed between December 1991 and July 1992 as part of the NIMH Methods for the Epidemiology of Child and Adolescent Mental Disorders (MECA) Study.
Compared with subjects with suicidal ideation only, attempters were significantly more likely to have experienced stressful life events, to have become sexually active, to have smoked more than one cigarette daily, and to have a history of ever having smoked marijuana. After adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, a statistically significant association was found between suicidal ideation or attempt and stressful life events, poor family environment, parental psychiatric history, low parental monitoring, low instrumental and social competence, sexual activity, marijuana use, recent drunkenness, current smoking, and physical fighting. Even after further adjusting for the presence of a mood, anxiety, or disruptive disorder, a significant association persisted between suicidal ideation or attempts and poor family environment, low parental monitoring, low youth instrumental competence, sexual activity, recent drunkenness, current smoking, and physical fighting.
Low parental monitoring and risk behaviors (such as smoking, physical fighting, alcohol intoxication, and sexual activity) are independently associated with increased risk of suicidal ideation and attempts, even after adjusting for the presence of psychiatric disorder and sociodemographic variables.