Association of childhood maltreatment with suicide behaviors among young people: A systematic-review and meta-analysis

Ioannis Angelakis, Jennifer Austin, Patricia A. Gooding

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Children and young people’s reports of experiences of adverse childhood events
have increased in recent years, and this trend has been associated with an elevated risk for suicide behaviors. However, a systematic review and meta-analysis is needed to confirm the significance of this association in young people.

To quantify the association between core types of childhood maltreatment, including sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and/or neglect and suicide behaviors in children and young adults.

Medline, PsychInfo, Embase, Web of Science, and CINAHL (Cumulative Index to
Nursing and Allied Health) databases were searched from January 1, 1980, until December 31, 2019. The reference lists of all the included studies were also checked.

Quantitative studies that focused on the association between core types of
childhood abuse and/or neglect and suicide ideation, plans, and attempts.

Data were extracted by 2 independent raters. Publication bias and risk of bias across studies were assessed. Meta-analyses using random-effect models were
applied, and heterogeneity was quantified using the I 2 statistic. Data were analyzed from January to May 2020 in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Metaanalyses (PRISMA) and Meta-analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (MOOSE) reporting guidelines.

The association between core types of childhood maltreatment and suicide behaviors.

Seventy-nine studies with 337 185 young individuals (mean [SD] age, 15.67 [2.11] years; 63.19% female) were included. The findings demonstrated that sexual abuse (odds ratio [OR], 3.41; 95% CI, 2.90-4.00), physical abuse (OR, 2.18; 95% CI, 1.75-2.71), emotional abuse (OR, 2.21; 95% CI, 1.37-3.57), emotional neglect (OR, 1.93; 95% CI, 1.36-2.74), physical neglect (OR, 1.79; 95% CI, 1.27-2.53), and combined abuse (OR, 3.38; 95% CI, 2.09-5.47) were significantly associated with
higher rates of suicide attempts. Core types of childhood maltreatment were also associated with as much as 2.5-fold greater odds for suicide ideation, and sexual abuse with a 4.0-fold increase for suicide plans. Studies based on community samples (β [SE] = −1.68 [0.79]; P = .04) or with lower methodological quality (β [SE] = −2.86 [1.30]; P = .03) were associated more strongly with suicide
attempts in those reporting experiences of sexual abuse, whereas young age was associated with both suicide attempts (β [SE] = −0.59 [0.27]; P = .03) and ideation (β [SE] = −0.41 [0.18]; P = .03).

These findings suggest that policy actions should focus on raising public awareness and offering proactive suicide prevention therapies for children and young adults who have experienced abuse and/or neglect.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2012563
Number of pages15
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2020


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