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Characteristics of interpersonal conflicts preceding youth suicide: analysis of data from the 2017 National Violent Death Reporting System.

  • Orlins, Erin1
  • DeBois, Kristen1
  • Chatfield, Sheryl L1
  • 1 College of Public Health, Kent State University, Kent, OH, USA.
Published Article
Child and adolescent mental health
Publication Date
Dec 02, 2020
DOI: 10.1111/camh.12439
PMID: 33289270


Deaths by suicide among US adolescents aged 10 to 19 increased by more than 85% between 2007 and 2017. Interpersonal conflicts with peers or family members, in combination with biological, psychological, and cognitive attributes of adolescents, are among risk factors. More insight about contextual factors, including timing of conflicts relative to suicide, would be useful for professionals and programmers. We used data from the 2017 National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) reflecting most cases in 37 US states to explore contextual circumstances in adolescent death by suicide preceded by interpersonal conflicts. We calculated descriptive statistics and conducted content analysis of narratives to identify attributes of 197 cases. Most deaths by suicide (n = 155) occurred within 24 hr of the conflict; most conflicts involved the adolescent and family members (n = 138). When subject matter was described, most conflicts (n = 27) focused on concerns with an adolescent's behavior. Nearly a quarter of cases (n = 49) involved technology, including technology restrictions as punishment, as either a primary or additional aspect of the conflict. Our findings provide support for prior research suggesting links between technology and mental health concerns, including suicidality, among adolescents. While previous works have identified both positive and negative aspects of the use of technology by adolescents, our findings suggest that restriction of technology as a punishment may be an additional contextual factor of interest in a proportion of youth suicides preceded by an argument. Given ongoing regular use of technology, practitioners should address these potential risk factors regardless of risk status. © 2020 Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

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