Objective: To describe the prevalence of suicide attempts and suicidal ideation in a birth cohort of New Zealand children studied to the age of 16 years; to examine the extent to which risks of suicide attempts and suicidal ideation varied with levels of adolescent psychopathology, problems of adjustment, and exposure to adverse conditions during childhood; and to examine the extent to which those attempting suicide could be distinguished from those reporting suicidal ideation alone.
Method: Data were gathered on suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, psychiatric diagnoses, adjustment problems, and childhood factors during the course of a 16-year longitudinal study of a birth cohort of New Zealand children.
Results: Twelve percent of this cohort reported suicidal ideation before the age of 16 years and 3% attempted suicide. The extent to which young people expressed suicidal tendencies varied with the extent to which the young person met criteria for psychiatric disorder, the extent of adjustment problems, and the extent to which the young person had been exposed to adverse family circumstances. Those attempting suicide were distinguished from those reporting suicidal ideation by having significantly higher rates of psychopathology (p < .05), higher rates of adjustment problems (p < .005), and greater exposure to childhood and family adversity (p < .05).
Conclusion: The results of this analysis were consistent with a dimensional model of suicidal behaviors in which those attempting suicide are distinguished from those reporting suicidal ideation alone by having a greater burden of psychosocial risk factors including psychiatric disorder, adjustment problems, and adverse childhood circumstances.