CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE AND YOUTH SUICIDE: A REVIEW OF THE EVIDENCE WITH IMPLICATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH

Anne E Rhodes, Jennifer Bethell, Lil Tonmyr

Abstract


Studies of suicide and non-fatal suicide-related behaviours demonstrate a gender paradox: Suicide rates are typically higher in males than females, whereas the opposite is true for non-fatal suicide-related behaviours. However, the reasons for these differences are unclear. Among the potential explanations, particularly in youth, is the effect of child maltreatment. A previous review suggested that while child sexual abuse may be more common in girls, the negative effect may be more potent for boys (with respect to suicide attempts). However, as their risk/protective factors may not always overlap, it is unclear whether this pattern seen for suicide attempts extends to suicide. The current study reviewed the evidence for potential sex differences in the association between child sexual abuse and suicide, identified methodological challenges to such studies, and discussed implications for future theoretical formulations/testing in research. The findings confirmed that the association between child sexual abuse and youth suicide remains unclear and the potential sex differences in the association remain largely unaddressed. Further, a test of the association between child sexual abuse and suicide would be best pursued in very large, population-based studies (with standardized measures of child sexual abuse) later linked to mortality data.


Keywords


suicide; self-injurious behavior; suicide, attempted; child abuse, sexual; child; adolescent

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International Journal of Child, Youth & Family Studies
ISSN
(online) 1920-7298
© University of Victoria

 

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