Men who attempted suicide before age 18 are much more likely to abuse their girlfriends or wives, according to a study from the Oregon Social Learning Center in Eugene.
The U.S. study included 153 males from relatively high-crime neighborhoods who were assessed annually from ages 10 to 32. The men's romantic partners were added to the study when the men were aged 18 to 25. Researchers found that 58 percent of males who tried to kill themselves before age 18 went on to injure a girlfriend or wife, compared with 23 percent of males who didn't attempt suicide when they were youths.
The association between attempted suicide and later aggression toward partners remained even after the researchers controlled for a number of other factors, including aggression, depression, substance abuse and a family history of abuse. The study documented partner abuse through several types of data, including domestic violence arrest records, women's and men's accounts of injuries and live observations of couples.
The findings, published online in the journal Psychological Medicine, offer evidence of the need for intervention programs for suicidal teens, said study co-author David Kerr, an assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University (OSU).
"The study began when these men were kids, before anyone knew who was going to be violent," Kerr continued. That is quite different from research that starts with violent men, or women from a domestic violence shelter, and tries to look back in time for explanations."