July 1973

Psychological "Biopsy" in Self-Poisoning of Children and Adolescents

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics, University of Nebraska College of Medicine and the Omaha-Douglas County Health Department, Omaha.

Am J Dis Child. 1973;126(1):42-46. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1973.02110190038007

A "psychological biopsy" to assess suicidal intent was conducted by public health nurses on 50 subjects, ages 6 to 18, treated at a poison control center. The hospital diagnoses were accident in 42% and suicide attempt in 58%. After assessment, the diagnoses were accident in 4%, suicide gesture in 70%, suicide attempt in 2%, intoxication in 22%, and homicide in 2%.

Prior suicide gestures had been made by 26% of the subjects. Extremes or divergence of parental expectations and control were found in 60%. A dominant pattern of hostility and low lethality of intent was associated with low parental control and low expectations as contrasted to a dominant depression in the high control-high expectations group. The authors propose a "rejection cycle" in which the parental response to the suicide gesture and to acting-out behavior favors recidivism.