"Adoption as a Risk Factor for Attempted Suicide During Adolescence"?
PEDIATRICS vol 108 No. 2, August 2001, by Gail Slap, Md; Elizabeth Goodman, Md; and Bin Huang, MS
Depression, impulsivity, and aggression during adolescence have been associated with both adoption and suicidal behavior. Studies of adopted adults suggest that impulsivity, even more than depression, may be an inherited factor that mediates suicidal behavior. However, the association between adoption and adolescent suicide attempts and the mechanisms that might explain it remain unknown.
The objective of this study was to determine the following: 1) whether suicide attempts are more common among adolescents who live with adoptive parents rather than biological parents; 2) whether the association is mediated by impulsivity, and 3) whether family connectedness decreases the risk of suicide attempt regardless of adoptive or biological status.
Conclusions. Attempted suicide is more common among adolescents who live with adoptive parents than among adolescents who live with biological parents. The association persists after adjusting for depression and aggression and is not explained by impulsivity as measured by a self-reported tendency to make decisions quickly. Although the mechanism underlying the association remains unclear, recognizing the adoptive status may help health care providers to identify youths who are at risk and to intervene before a suicide attempt occurs. It is important to note, however, that the great majority of adopted youths do not attempt suicide and that adopted and nonadopted youths in this study did not differ in other aspects of emotional and behavioral health. Furthermore, high family connectedness decreases the likelihood of suicide attempts regardless of adoptive status and represents a protective factor for all adolescents.
Thanks to Darlene McNutt Gerow for sharing this resource
Exploring links between past adoptions and suicide
Stories of depression and suicidal thoughts were common among adoptees and birth parents participating in a study conducted by James Cook University social work senior lecturer Dr Susan Gair. (Gair, S. Camilleri, P. (2000) Attempted suicide: Listening to and learning from young people, Queensland Journal of Educational Research, Vo l16, No 2, pages 183-206)
The study involved gathering anecdotal evidence through interviews with birth parents, adoptees and adoptive parents.
Dr Gair said her study showed that previous adoption processes were not ideal and that recent reforms will go a long way to improve future adoptions situations.
“In February, The Adoption Bill 2009 was introduced into Queensland Parliament, granting more flexibility and choices to people involved in adoption. This Bill brings Queensland into line with other Australian states,” she said.
“Theorising about past adoption practice can and should inform clinical practice and future adoption legislation and policies,” Dr Gair said.
Dr Gair said the study revealed distressing stories of depression, suicide attempts and completed suicides.
“There were common themes in the stories: powerlessness, feelings of rejection, despair and hopelessness,” Dr Gair said.
“Many of the participants discussed how they felt required to silently suffer these feelings as society dictated a level of gratitude and shame associated with adoption”.
Some of the stories told by birth parents reveal that at the time of the adoption, they were told they had no rights and were told to just ‘get on with (their) lives’.
“Some adoptees discussed feelings of depression, of being a ‘second class citizen’, and of having ‘borrowed an identity’. One adoptive parent discussed how her child died by suicide after being unable to face more rejections,” Dr Gair said.
The report also featured stories where participants identified ‘turning points’ which were described as having “saved (their) life”. These incidents mostly involved finding a link with their birth parents/children, meeting a grandparent or finding a match on the Internet.