Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 37, Issue 7, pp 917–928 | Cite as

Emotional Triggers and Psychopathology Associated with Suicidal Ideation in Urban Children with Elevated Aggressive-Disruptive Behavior

  • Peter A. WymanEmail author
  • Patricia A. Gaudieri
  • Karen Schmeelk-Cone
  • Wendi Cross
  • C. Hendricks Brown
  • Luke Sworts
  • Jennifer West
  • Katharine C. Burke
  • Janaki Nathan


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.


Suicidal ideation Urban children Aggressive-disruptive behaviors Emotional triggers and psychopathology 



We are grateful to the families and staff of the Rochester City School District, including our long-term colleague Mr. Gary Hewitt. We also thank the following individuals: Suzanne Coglitore and Mariya Petrova from the Resilience Project Team; and David B. Goldston, Thomas G. O’Connor and Anne J. Russ for helpful comments and improvements. We acknowledge support from the National Institute of Mental Health under grants R01 MH068423, and T32MH018911-18, and from the NIMH/NIDA under grants P20MH071897 (Developing Center for Public Health and Population Interventions for Preventing Suicide; E D Caine, PI) and R01MH40859.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter A. Wyman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Patricia A. Gaudieri
    • 1
  • Karen Schmeelk-Cone
    • 1
  • Wendi Cross
    • 1
  • C. Hendricks Brown
    • 2
  • Luke Sworts
    • 1
  • Jennifer West
    • 1
  • Katharine C. Burke
    • 1
  • Janaki Nathan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Rochester School of Medicine and DentistryRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Center for Family Studies, Department of Epidemiology and Public HealthUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA

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