Parental suicide: an organizing event in the development of latency age children

Suicide Life Threat Behav. Spring 1981;11(1):43-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1943-278x.1981.tb00998.x.


This paper proposes that children who are especially vulnerable to parental suicide have not resolved earlier developmental issues of separation-individuation. Five children, ages 6 to 12, were studied intensively. Parental suicide during the child's latency age period has profound influences on children's ego development and character formation because during this time childhood ego functioning is rapidly maturing and superego functions are developing. The trauma of parental suicide is heightened when difficulties for the surviving parent in mourning interfere with open discussion between the parent and child about the death. Parental suicide may stimulate childhood suicidal impulses if the child identifies with and idealizes the dead parent and has wishes of reuniting with the deceased.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuation
  • Latency Period, Psychological
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Object Attachment
  • Parents*
  • Psychoanalytic Theory
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Suicide / psychology*