Teenage girls who were maltreated during their childhood are more likely to entertain suicidal thoughts if the relationship with their mother is poor and the degree of conflict between the two is high. Maltreatment includes emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and emotional and physical neglect.
The findings of the study highlighted that the quality of the mother-daughter relationship and their level of conflict are two direct mechanisms that are associated with child maltreatment and suicidal thoughts during adolescence.
“Our findings suggest that disruptions to a positive mother-teen relationship are one reason why children who experienced abuse or neglect are at risk for suicide as teens,” said Elizabeth Handley, Assistant Professor University of Rochester in New York.
“We know from decades of research that a warm, nurturing, and consistent relationship between mothers and their children is critical for many aspects of healthy development. This continues to be true even in adolescence when teenagers spend more time with their friends and less time at home with family,” she added.
For the study, published in the journal Suicide and Life-Threatening Behaviour, researchers from the varsity included 164 socio-economically disadvantaged, depressed, adolescent girls (average 14-year-olds) and their mothers. The team examined mother-daughter relationship quality, mother-daughter conflict, and adolescent depressive symptoms.
Among the study participants, 51.8 per cent of adolescents indicated a history of at least one form of maltreatment. They found that rates of suicidal thoughts and recurrent thoughts of death were higher among teenage girls with a history of maltreatment than those without such records.
Nearly 11.7 per cent of non-maltreated, depressed adolescents indicated suicidal ideation compared to 26.8 per cent of maltreated, depressed adolescents. Attachment-based family therapy has proven useful in reducing suicidal thoughts among teenagers by strengthening the functioning of the family and the parent-adolescent attachment relationship, the team noted.