Suicidal ideation and suicidal risk assessment are major concerns for health professionals. The perception of a low level of parental support is a risk factor for suicidal tendencies among adolescents, but little is known about its long-term impact on the vulnerability to suicidal behavior in young adults. We investigated whether the perceived level of parental support during childhood and adolescence was associated with current suicidal ideation in young adults.
We retrieved data collected in the i-Share study from February 1st, 2013 through January 30, 2017. This cross-sectional study included 10,015 French students, aged 18–24 years that completed an on-line self-reported questionnaire about suicidal ideation in the last 12 months and their perceived parental support in childhood and adolescence. We performed multinomial logistic regressions and sensitivity analyses to assess associations between the degree of perceived parental support and the frequency suicidal thoughts, after adjusting for the main known risk factors of suicidal ideation. We employed multiple imputations to account for missing data.
The study sample included 7539 female (75.7%) and 2436 male (24.3%) students (mean [SD] age 20.0 [1.8] years). About one in five students reported occasional suicidal thoughts (n = 1775, 17.7%) and 368 students (3.7%) reported frequent suicidal thoughts. The adjusted multinomial logistic regression revealed a significant negative association between perceived parental support and suicidal thoughts. A lack of perceived parental support in childhood and adolescence was associated with > 4-fold elevated risk of occasional (adjusted OR, 4.55; 95% CI: 2.97–6.99) and nearly 9-fold elevated risk of frequent (adjusted OR, 8.58; 95% CI: 4.62–15.96) suicidal thoughts, compared to individuals that perceived extremely strong parental support. This association was strongest among students with no personal history of depression or suicide attempts.
Students that perceived low levels of past parental support had a higher risk of suicidal ideation. Past perceived parental support appeared to be a potent marker of suicidal risk in young adults. This marker should be routinely collected in studies on suicidal risk in young adults, and it could be considered an additional screening tool.