Children's versus parents' view of family environment: Relationship to suicidality and depression

Brenda J. Payne

Abstract

Examines the relationship between parent and child perception of family cohesion and adaptability and child report of depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation and behavior. Participants were 110 children and parents recruited from an elementary school, community mental health center, and adolescent psychiatric unit. Children completed the Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire for Children (SBQ-C), Children's Depression Inventory (CDI), and the Family Adaptability and Cohesion Scale II (FACES II). Their parents also completed the FACES II. Results indicate parental perception of family cohesion and adaptability and child's report of depression were the best predictors of suicidal ideation and behavior. A 3 (groups) by 2 (high, low suicide) MANOVA revealed a significant main effect for group, with univariate follow up tests indicating the three groups differed on child perception of family cohesion and child perception of family adaptability. A Student Newman-Keuls indicated the inpatient group had significantly lower family cohesion and adaptability than the outpatient or community groups. A 2 (community, clinical groups) by 2 (high, low suicide) MANOVA indicated an additional main effect for level of suicide. Univariate follow up tests revealed that children reporting higher suicidal ideation and behavior viewed their families as lower in cohesion, were more depressed, and had parents who viewed the family as lower in cohesion and adaptability. In addition, children reporting a significant level of suicidality reported low levels of family cohesion and adaptability, similar to their parents. Overall it seems that perceiving a positive family environment may play a protective role against the development of suicidality. Though the present study was correlational in nature, the fact that both parents and children in the high suicide group perceived their families to be functioning very poorly, provides some evidence that the consistent finding that suicidal children perceive their families negatively is not due to a cognitive bias, but due to poor family functioning.