Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 25, Issue 7, pp 2327–2336 | Cite as

Parents with Suicidal Behavior: Parenting is Not Always Protective

  • Julie CerelEmail author
  • Laura M. Frey
  • Myfanwy Maple
  • Dina G. Kinner
Original Paper


Deaths by suicide and nonfatal suicide attempts are pervasive problems in the United States, especially among those of child-bearing age. Prior research has indicated that parenthood is a protective factor against suicide. However, no study has examined the reasons for why some parents attempt suicide. Questionnaires (n = 87) and follow-up interviews (n = 75) were completed with parents who recently attempted suicide and were recruited in the Emergency Department. Respondents reported family or relationship problems, depression, and child-related issues as the most common reasons for their attempt. Those who identified parenting as an impetus endorsed significantly more symptoms of depression and higher levels of stress related to dysfunctional parent–child interactions. Over a third of parents reported their child had been informed of their suicide attempt, and nearly a fourth of parents reported their child had been present at the time of the suicide attempt. These findings indicate that parenthood can be a risk factor for suicide among parents with high parenting stress or those experiencing custody issues.


Attempt survivors Family Parenthood Parenting stress Suicide 



This study was funded by a pilot grant awarded by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a grant by the National Institute for Mental Health (T-32MH20061: Conwell), and the Salzman Award provided by the University of Rochester Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie Cerel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Laura M. Frey
    • 2
  • Myfanwy Maple
    • 3
  • Dina G. Kinner
    • 4
  1. 1.College of Social WorkUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  2. 2.Couple and Family Therapy Program, Kent School of Social WorkUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA
  3. 3.School of HealthUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  4. 4.Durham VA Medical CenterDurhamUSA

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