Suicidal teens more likely to abuse partners as adults: Study

Last Updated: Jun 14, 2010, 16:15 PM IST

Washington: Boys who attempt suicide before the age of 18 are more likely to be aggressive towards their partners as adults, claims a new study, highlighting the need for intervention among the teens having suicidal tendencies.

The groundbreaking American research is based on data from 153 males from higher-crime neighbourhoods, who were assessed yearly from ages 10 to 32, and their partners who participated when the men were aged 18 to 25.

The study, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, found that about 58 per cent of youth who attempted suicide went on to injure a partner, compared to 23 per cent of young men who did not attempt suicide.

"The study began when these men were kids, before anyone knew who was going to become violent," said David Kerr of Oregon State University, who led the study along with Deborah Capaldi of the Eugene-based Oregon Social Learning Centre.

"That is quite different from research that starts with violent men, or women from a domestic violence shelter, and tries to look back in time for explanations," said Kerr, who is researching on youth suicide, depression, and health-risking behaviours.

The study also did not rely on just one source of information, such as men`s own reports of aggression. Instead, the researchers had data from official domestic violence arrest records, women`s own reports of injury, and live
observations of the couples.

The researchers controlled for other problems suicidal youth can have which are also linked to violence to partner, such as aggression, depression, substance use, and family abuse history.

They still found that young men who attempted suicide were more aggressive toward their partners.

"It was fascinating that this link just refused to be explained away," said Kerr.

Capaldi, who has studied issues around domestic violence for many years, said the study indicates the risk factors for men`s violence toward women differ from much of what is accepted.

"Conventional wisdom portrays men`s violence to women as more cold, controlled and calculated," she said. "The findings of this study indicate that for some men violence is related to a history of impulsive aggression that includes self-harm as well as aggression to others."

Capaldi added that this finding is consistent with a growing body of recent work indicating that both men and women who are physically aggressive toward a partner have histories of problems with aggressive and impulsive behaviour.

"The study has critically important implications for prevention and treatment," she said.

The researchers said this study shows further evidence that intervention and prevention programs are needed for youth who attempt suicide.

"Adolescent boys who attempt suicide are at risk for serious long-term problems," Capaldi said, "and thus targeted prevention aimed at decreasing future aggression and increasing behavioural and emotional control is really
necessary."

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