The Role of Social Support in the Association between Childhood Adversity and Adolescent Self-injury and Suicide: Findings from a Statewide Sample of High School Students.J Youth Adolesc. 2020 Jun; 49(6):1195-1208.JY
Extensive literature documents that adverse childhood experiences increase risk for non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and suicide behaviors among adolescents. However, few studies have examined patterns of co-occurring family based adversities, whether distinct patterns of adversity are differentially associated with NSSI and suicide behaviors, and if social support can offset the impact of adversity for these behaviors. This study used a statewide school-based sample that was 50.1% female, 71% non-Hispanic White, and evenly divided by grade (9th grade N = 39,682; 11th grade N = 33,966). Latent class analysis identified three mutually exclusive, homogeneous subgroups of co-occurring familial adversities; low or no family based adversity, parental dysfunction but low maltreatment, and parental dysfunction plus maltreatment. The relationships between membership in the identified subgroups and past year NSSI, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempt were assessed separately for 9th graders (average age = 14) and 11th graders (average age = 17). Although membership in the parent dysfunction plus maltreatment class was associated with the highest odds of NSSI, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempt, membership in either class of familial adversity elevated risk for these behaviors compared to membership in the low or no adversity class. Whether the protective effects of perceived peer and teacher social support moderated these associations and varied across age groups was also explored. The findings suggest that peer and teacher social support can promote positive outcomes even for youth living in stressful family conditions and that the protective effects of social support increase as the number of sources of support expands.