Emotional triggers and psychopathology associated with suicidal ideation in urban children with elevated aggressive-disruptive behavior

J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2009 Oct;37(7):917-28. doi: 10.1007/s10802-009-9330-4.


8.6% suicidal ideation (SI) was found among 349 urban 6-9 year olds in the top tercile of aggressive-disruptive behavior. SI was associated with more self-reported depression, ODD, conduct problems, and ADHD symptoms (ES 0.70-0.97) and 3.5-5 times more clinically significant symptoms. Parents rated more symptoms in older children associated with SI compared to parents of similar age children without SI, including greater somatic and behavior problems in 8-9 year olds with SI. Parent ratings did not differentiate SI and non-SI in 6-7 year olds. SI frequently co-occurred with thoughts about death. Children described anger, dysphoria and interpersonal conflict as motivators/triggers for SI and worries about safety/health as motivator/triggers for thoughts about death, suggesting that problems managing emotionally challenging situations are a specific factor in initiating SI. Universal and indicated interventions for children to strengthen emotional self-regulation and behavioral control are recommended to complement the current emphasis on suicide prevention among adolescents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New York
  • Parents
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Urban Population