Childhood Social Exclusion and Suicidal Behavior in Adolescence and Young Adulthood

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Sociology, Stockholm University

Abstract: In this thesis I analyze, with the help of social epidemiological theories, childhood risk factors behind suicidal behavior in adolescence and young adulthood. The data comes mainly from the Swedish “Stockholm Birth Cohort Study” (SBC) consisting of 15,117 participants. A total of four separate studies are included.The first study is restricted to boys born in 1953. By analyzing data from different registers and questions from a survey conducted when they were 12-13 years old it is shown that those who spent most of their time alone, had been absent from school even though they were not ill or grew up in a family which received means-tested benefits at least once during their childhood had a higher risk of taking their own lives. The second study includes the same boys, but suicidal behavior is extended to also encompass suicide attempts and is analyzed in parallel with interpersonal violence. The results show that these different behaviors can be similarly explained by shortcomings in social bonds and relative deprivation during childhood. The third study, which focuses on women’s suicidality within the SBC, shows that girls with both above and below average marks in the sixth grade had a higher risk of engaging in suicidal behavior as adolescents or young adults. However, this relation only held for girls who had grown up with supportive parental ambitions in terms of educational commitment. For boys, only low school performance was shown to be suicidogenic, irrespective of parental ambitions. The fourth and final study is based on the international “Health Behavior in School-aged Children” study and information from international databases. Here it is shown that the suicide rate among 15-24 year old women in 30 European and North American countries at the end of the 2000s was inversely related to how many days a week 15 year old girls involved themselves with friends in 2005/2006.The introductory chapter of the thesis begins with a short background to the theme of social exclusion and suicidality. This section is followed by a more detailed discussion of how the notion of social recognition that is found within the social exclusion literature, can help nuance our understanding of social isolation and suicidal behavior further.

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