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Family Closeness Saves Lives

Posted Apr 30 2009 1:36pm

Even if teens act as if they don’t need their parents’ help, research proves that they do.

Teenagers usually think of their friendships as their most important relationships; but new research shows that support from mom and dad, not friends, helps prevent suicidal behavior in teens that experienced depression or attempted suicide in the past.

Depression during high school and a previous suicide attempt were significant predictors of suicidal thought one or two years later, according to a study led by James Mazza, a University of Washington professor of educational psychology.

Young people who were depressed or had attempted suicide in high school were less likely to have suicidal thoughts if they had strong family support and more open communication. Having a girlfriend or boyfriend also helped.

“Our findings suggest that the protective quality of family support and bonding, or having an intimate partner, are not replaced by peer support and bonding in emerging adulthood,” said Mazza.

Bonding refers to a young adult’s closeness with family or a romantic partner and the ability to talk with them about important issues.

Peers don’t provide the same type of safety net that comes from a family or by having an intimate partner,” Mazza said. “When it comes to suicidal behavior, young adults may feel that their family or partner may be more accepting and less judgmental than perhaps some of their peer s.”

Data came from a larger National Institute of Drug Abuse 15-year study of youth in a Seattle-area school district that looked at risk factors for marijuana and cigarette use, binge drinking, depression and past suicidal behavior.

Parents shouldn’t give up on their adolescents, because our work indicates they still rely on them in this kind of situation,” Mazza said.

Speaking from both personal experience and through my work’s observation, I couldn’t agree more with Mazza.

Never, ever give up.

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