Suicide Attempts More Common Among Adopted Teens

By Suzanne Rostler

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Adolescents who live with adoptive parents may be more likely than their peers to attempt suicide, researchers report.

However, being part of a close-knit family appears to lower the risk of suicide for all teens. And the majority of adopted teens are not suicidal, according to findings published in the online edition of the August issue of Pediatrics.

``The main message of this study is that communication, seeking common ground, warmth, love and the sense of satisfaction the adolescent has with the (family) relationship, even when angry or rebelling, is critically important,'' Dr. Gail Slap, the study's lead author, told Reuters Health.

The study by researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio of more than 6,500 students in grades 7 through 12 found that 7.6% of adopted adolescents had attempted suicide in the past year, compared with about 3% of their peers. Adopted adolescents were also more likely to have received psychological or emotional counseling--about 17% of adopted youth compared with 8% of non-adopted youth.

Adolescents who had tried to commit suicide were more likely to be depressed, smoke cigarettes, engage in delinquent behavior, have a low self-image and be female, the investigators found. There were no significant differences between those who had attempted suicide and those who had not in terms of age, race, parents' education and family income.

Mothers of teens who had tried to commit suicide were more likely to describe their children as ``bad-tempered'' than were mothers of adolescents who did not attempt suicide, the report indicates.

The study included students who were living with their adoptive or biological mothers and had never been separated from the mother for more than 6 months. All mothers were in their first marriage, increasing the likelihood that children lived in two-parent families and had not experienced divorce.

Overall, just over 3% of the students in the study were living with adoptive mothers, the authors note.

Slap said that the study did not investigate why adoption may be a riskfactor for suicide.

SOURCE: Pediatrics 2001;108:e30.

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