Suicidal behavior among inner-city Hispanic adolescent females

Andrew M. Razin, Mary Alice O'Dowd, Amy Nathan, Ileana Rodriguez, Anne Goldfield, Cecilia Martin, Lisa Goulet, Susan Scheftel, Peter Mezan, Jeanne Mosca

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35 Scopus citations


Suicidal behavior is disproportionately frequent among inner-city Hispanic adolescent girls. In an attempt to generate a multifactorial set of hypotheses to explain this behavior, 33 such subjects consecutively admitted for suicidal behavior and 15 demographically identical nonsuicidal subjects were assessed by means of a structured interview. Mothers of all subjects were also assessed. Attempts were nearly always impulsive and nonlethal, though often with a stated wish to die. Nearly all were overdoses, and were precipitated by conflicts with mother or boyfriend. Mothers could usually identify the precipitants. Attempters' parents were less often born in the U.S., their mothers seemed medically less healthy, and their extended families were more often supported by public assistance, and had a higher incidence of criminal and psychiatric problems. School performance was poorer among attempters, who had suffered more and earlier losses, especially of biologic fathers, with whom fewer had ongoing relationships. They more often had boyfriends, had begun sexual activity, had recently lost friends, and expressed a mistrustful stance toward friend-ships. Similarly, their mothers had fewer friends and more often expressed a mistrustful stance. Relationships with mothers seemed more intense, desperate, and even violent, and attempters were much more often parentified, i.e., mothering their mothers. Although both groups often assumed caretaking roles in their families, attempters were more negatively described by themselves and by their mothers. While knowledge of suicidal models was common in both groups, attempters' mothers knew of even more models than did their daughters or the nonsuicidal subjects or their mothers. Notably, more attempters' mothers had themselves made attempts. Families of most attempters were usually mobilized by the attempt. These findings permit the construction of a putative profile of risk factors that can be tested more rigorously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-58
Number of pages14
JournalGeneral hospital psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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