Psychopathological mechanisms of early neglect and abuse on suicidal ideation and self-harm in middle childhood

Elise Paul, Ana Ortin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

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Abstract

Informed by diathesis-stress models of suicide risk, this longitudinal study examines the psychopathological mechanisms through which early maltreatment increases the risk for suicidal ideation and self-harm in middle childhood. The sample included 2958 families from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, who participated in interviews at child’s ages of 3 and/or 5, and 9. Via the Child Behavior Checklist, primary caregivers reported on the child’s suicidal ideation and self-harm at age 9 and on clinically elevated depressive/anxious symptoms, aggressive behaviors, attention problems, and comorbid aggression and depressive/anxious symptoms at age 5. Past year neglect and physical/psychological abuse were measured via the Parent–Child Conflict Tactics Scale at age 3. Multivariate structural equation models indicated that early neglect had a significant indirect effect on suicidal ideation via clinically elevated depressive/anxious symptoms (OR = 1.57, 95% CI 1.09–2.25) and comorbid symptomatology (OR = 1.28, 95% CI 1.02–1.62), and on self-harm also via clinically elevated depressive/anxious symptoms (OR = 1.39, 95% CI 1.04–1.84) and comorbid symptomatology (OR = 1.20, 95% CI 1.01–1.43). Early physical/psychological abuse had a significant indirect effect on self-harm via clinically elevated attention problems (OR = 1.09, 95% CI 1.01–1.21). Unique developmental pathways for suicidal ideation and self-harm emerged among children exposed to abuse or neglect. For those exposed to early neglect, interventions should target depressive/anxious symptoms, especially when comorbid with aggression, to prevent suicidal ideation and self-harm. For children exposed to early physical/psychological abuse, problems with attention and impulsivity may be targets for reducing the risk for self-harm.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Early online date19 Feb 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Feb 2019

Keywords

  • Child abuse
  • Child neglect
  • Self-injurious behavior
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Longitudinal studies

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