Many children grow up facing distinct challenges within their family lives, though some are presented with pronounced difficulty that may have the potential to negatively impact the child’s adult life. The suicide of a parent during childhood is a markedly traumatic experience that may require special care and therapy treatment, and professionals have been interested in the effects of such an event on children for some time. In a study performed at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, researchers recently investigated the potential impact of parental suicide on children’s own likelihood of committing the same deed later on in life.
To carry out the study, researchers focused on statistical data that spanned over the course of thirty years for a group of people in Sweden. Parents involved in the data had either died through suicide, through an accident, or through an illness, or were still alive. The children of these parents were then analyzed for their subsequent rates of psychiatric hospitalization, convictions of violent crime, and death. The study found that children whose parent died through suicide were three times as likely as children with living parents to commit suicide themselves, though this discrepancy disappeared when the children were eighteen or older at the time of the parent’s death. Children whose parent died in an accident while the child was thirteen years of age or younger were twice as likely as kids with living parents to commit suicide, and this tendency likewise disappeared in children of older ages. The death of a parent as the result of illness did not seem to have any impact on suicide rates.
The study highlights the potential for harm among children who experience the death of a parent by suicide before their eighteenth birthday, and researchers suggest that this finding provides ample evidence for the monitoring and distribution of care to kids in such situations. Through providing the right kinds and amounts of support, therapists and other professionals may be able to help break the cycle of suicide in families.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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