Pathways to Suicidal Behavior in Children and Adolescents: Examination of Child Maltreatment and Post-Traumatic Symptoms

Academic Article


  • Suicide in youth exacts significant personal and community costs. Thus, it is important to understand predisposing risk factors. Experiencing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as child maltreatment (CM-ACE), and the presence of post-traumatic stress disorder has been identified as a risk factor of suicidal behaviors among adults. Theoretical models of suicide suggest that the presence of painful experiences such as CM-ACEs increase the risk of suicidal behaviors. The relation between child maltreatment, post-traumatic stress symptom clusters (PTSS) and suicidal behaviors has not been explicitly examined among youth. The present study examined the relations between CM-ACEs, PTSS clusters, and suicidal behaviors in a clinical population of children. Children, male, ages 6 to 14, enrolled in a residential treatment program completed self-report measures to evaluate variables of interest. Path analyses revealed statistically significant direct effects of CM-ACEs and PTSS clusters on suicidal behaviors. Significant total indirect effects and marginally significant individual indirect effects of intrusion and avoidance symptoms were observed for the relation between CM-ACEs and suicidal behavior. Findings suggest that symptoms associated with specific PTSS clusters might help explain the relation between CM-ACEs and suicidal behavior, and therefore, present important implications for clinical practice and future research.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • McRae E; Stoppelbein L; O’Kelley S; Smith S; Fite P