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For gender, sexual minorities, dealing with family abuse cuts suicide attempts

Experiencing abuse in the hands of family members increases the risk for suicide, particularly among gender and sexual minorities.

Photo by Andy Henderson from Unsplash.com

Experiencing abuse in the hands of family members increases the risk for suicide, particularly among gender and sexual minorities.

This is according to a study – “The Association Between Family Physical Abuse and Suicide Attempts Among Gender Minority Adolescents: A Comparison Study” by Emily Brangwin, Zhenqiang Zhao, Maura Shramko, Russell B. Toomey, and Amy K. Syvertsen – that appeared in LGBT Health.

For this study, the researchers examined the prevalence of reported family physical abuse and the concurrent association between abuse and suicide attempts by adolescent gender identity.

They used the Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behaviors dataset (N = 121,150 adolescents aged 11–19 [mean = 14.74, standard deviation = 1.78]) collected from 61 participating school districts and programs across the US by Search Institute from 2012 to 2015. Multigroup logistic regression was used to examine the association between family abuse and suicide attempts by gender identity. Correlates included race/ethnicity, age, parent education, rurality, binge drinking, and tobacco use.

The researchers found that:

  • cisgender adolescents (i.e. participants who did not select a transgender identity) reported significantly less family abuse compared to gender minority adolescents
  • family physical abuse was associated with higher odds of suicide attempts among all adolescents
  • the association was stronger for female adolescents compared to male adolescents but not significantly different across gender minority adolescents, including those who identify as transgender female to male, transgender male to female, and transgender without identifying or being unsure of their gender identity
  • the association between family physical abuse and suicide attempts was stronger among heterosexual female adolescents compared to sexual minority female, heterosexual male, sexual minority male, heterosexual gender minority, or sexual and gender minority adolescents

The researchers stressed that “findings highlight the importance of identifying and treating family abuse to prevent suicide attempts, particularly among gender and sexual minority adolescents.”

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