Type and Severity of Child Abuse and Adult Suicidality

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Lillian M. Range

Advisor Department



Previous research has established adult suicidality as a long-term correlate of child sexual abuse and child physical abuse. In an attempt to improve common methodological problems found in prior studies, the present study compared reported histories of child sexual abuse, child physical abuse, and combined abuse in terms of adult suicidality and reasons for living in a college sample of men; and women. Severity of abuse was examined as well. Participants who reported both severe sexual and severe physical abuse were more suicidal than participants who reported sexual and/or physical abuse at varying degrees of severity. Those who reported sexual abuse involving more invasive sexual acts such as rape and physical abuse involving behaviors that result in physical injury to the child were more suicidal than those who reported less severe abuse. In addition, although combined sexual and physical abuse were found to correlate with increased suicidality, the lack of an interaction between sexual and physical abuse suggests that this increased suicidality is additive rather than multiplicative. Implications are that college counseling personnel need to be aware of the suicidal risk of those students reporting sexual and/or physical abuse, and they may be advised to increase cognitive deterrents to suicide in students who report severe sexual and physical abuse.