Suicidal Behavior Linked to Relational Distress

By McNamara, Damian | Clinical Psychiatry News, October 2010 | Go to article overview

Suicidal Behavior Linked to Relational Distress


McNamara, Damian, Clinical Psychiatry News


ORLANDO -- Adolescent suicide attempt history is associated with increased likelihood of intimate partner violence when a male becomes a young adult, according to a long-term, prospective study of 153 men.

The findings suggest that prevention or intervention efforts for adolescents who attempt suicide might improve subsequent relationship outcomes, said David C. R. Kerr, Ph.D.

A paucity of research exists on associations between teenage suicidal behavior and relational distress, partner aggression, or relationship instability in young adulthood, Dr. Kerr said at the meeting.

Suicidal behavior might reflect underlying traits, such as impulsivity or aggression, he said, and these traits could manifest as maladaptive behaviors during romantic relationships. "Intimate relationships can be a source of significant conflict and profound emotional distress."

Impulsive or reactive aggression during intense negative affect or when someone is highly negatively aroused seems to be important, said Dr. Kerr, research associate at Oregon Social Learning Center at Oregon State University, Eugene.

Dr. Kerr and his associate Deborah Capaldi, Ph.D., assessed regular surveys of males beginning when they were aged 10 years. Participants in the Oregon Youth Study were re-assessed annually up to age 32 years. Findings were not solely based on self-reports, because they are not always trustworthy, Dr. Kerr said. "Batterers may report mental health symptoms as a way to deny responsibility." In addition, he said, suicidal threats/behaviors might be considered a form of control over intimate partners.

Annual reports from 59 female partners starting when the men reached age 18 years also were assessed. Couples also were observed in interaction tasks meant to generate some conflict.

A total 19 of the 153 males (12%) had a lifetime suicide attempt history.

In order to assess physical injury, only partners were asked during five interviews (from ages 20 to 32 years) if they had ever been injured by the man. "Close to 27% reported an injury of some form," Dr. Kerr said.

"An unmediated link between youth suicide attempt and adult partner aggression and violence supports the role of impulsive, undercontrolled aggression in intimate partner violence," Dr. …

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