Suicidality in childhood abuse survivors – the contribution of identification with the aggressor

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Abstract

Objective: Childhood abuse survivors are at risk for suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Research has indicated that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and dissociation are related to elevated suicidal ideation and behavior (SIB) among this population. At the same time, although the theoretical and clinical literature in the trauma field have suggested that survivors’ pathological attachment to their perpetrators, known as identification with the aggressor, might explain SIB, this supposition has not been investigated to date. Method: Filling this gap, this study explored the associations between identification with the aggressor, PTSD symptoms, dissociation, and SIB among 589 adult survivors of childhood abuse. Results: Identification with the aggressor, PTSD symptoms, and dissociation were related to elevated levels in suicidal ideation and behavior. Furthermore, profile type (namely, having high versus medium or low levels of identification with the aggressor, PTSD symptoms, and dissociation) was implicated in participants’ SIB: Participants who adhered to a profile characterized by high levels of identification with the aggressor, PTSD symptoms, and dissociation had higher levels of suicide risk and suicidal ideation, as well as higher odds of reporting a history of suicide attempts, compared to participants who adhered to the other two profiles (i.e., characterized by medium or low levels of identification with the aggressor, PTSD symptoms, and dissociation). Limitations: This study relied on convenience sampling and a cross-sectional design. Conclusions: Identification with the aggressor might serve, alongside PTSD symptoms and dissociation, as a risk factor for suicidal ideation and behavior among childhood abuse survivors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)804-810
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume295
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Childhood abuse
  • Dissociation
  • Identification with the aggressor
  • PTSD
  • Suicidality

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