Bottom Line: Parents' belief in the importance of religion was associated with a lower risk for suicidal behavior by their children regardless of a child's own belief about the importance of religion and other known risk factors such as parental depression, suicidal behavior and divorce.
Why The Research Is Interesting: About 12 percent of adolescents in the United States report having thoughts about attempting suicide, and suicide is a primary cause of death among females 15 to 19. Religious and spiritual beliefs have gotten less attention in previous research examining risk factors of child and adolescent suicide. This study used data from a three-generation family study for children and adolescents whose parents were at high or low risk for major depressive disorder because of their grandparents' depression status.
Who and When: 214 children from 112 nuclear families using data from a 30-year sample; most belonged to a Christian religious denomination
What (Study Measures): Parent and child psychiatric diagnoses and suicidal behaviors; the two measures of religiosity (religious belief) used were importance and attendance
How (Study Design): This was an observational study. Researchers were not intervening for purposes of the study and cannot control all the natural differences that could explain the study findings.
Authors: Priya J. Wickramaratne, Ph.D., of Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, New York, and coauthors
Results: Higher parental belief in the importance of religion was associated with lower risk of suicidal behavior in children.
Study Limitations: The sample of parents and children had regional limitations regarding religious denominations represented; participants were white.
To Learn More: The full study is available on the For The Media website.
Editor's Note: The article includes conflict of interest and funding/support disclosures. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.
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