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Parental Divorce, Parental Depression, and Gender Differences in Adult Offspring Suicide Attempt

Lizardi, Dana PhD*; Thompson, Ronald G. PhD*; Keyes, Katherine MPH†‡; Hasin, Deborah PhD†‡§

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: December 2009 - Volume 197 - Issue 12 - p 899-904
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181c299ac
Original Article

Research suggests parental divorce during childhood increases risk of suicide attempt for male but not female offspring. The negative impact on offspring associated with parental divorce may be better explained by parental psychopathology, such as depression. We examined whether adult offspring of parental divorce experience elevated risk of suicide attempt, controlling for parental history of depression, and whether the risk varies by the gender of the offspring. Using the 2001 to 2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), the sample consists of respondents who experienced parental divorce (N = 4895). Multivariable regressions controlled for age, race/ethnicity, income, marital status, and parental history of depression. Females living with their fathers were significantly more likely to report lifetime suicide attempts than females living with their mothers, even after controlling for parental depression. Findings suggest that childhood/adolescent parental divorce may have a stronger impact on suicide attempt risk in female offspring than previously recognized.

*Graduate School of Social Work, Columbia University, New York, NY; †New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY; ‡Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY; and §Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, NY.

Supported by K05 AA 014223 (Hasin), R01AA13654 (Hasin), a fellowship from the National Institute of Mental Health (T32 MH013043–36, Keyes), and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. No authors have any relevant financial interests.

Send reprint requests to Dana Lizardi, PhD, School of Social Work, Columbia University, 1255 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10027. E-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.